Hun Sen Takes Rail to Sihanoukville; Praises Service

Prime Minister Hun Sen caught the recently restarted passenger train from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville on Saturday, writing on Facebook following the trip that he would ask the king to join him next time and was considering plans for a similar railway line to Siem Reap.

After a 14-year hiatus, Royal Railways officially restarted the service between the capital and the coast over the weekend following a successful trial run during the Khmer New Year holiday.

Prime Minister Hun Sen arrives at Phnom Penh's train station on Saturday before taking the recently restarted passenger service to Sihanoukville. (Pring Samrang/Reuters)
Prime Minister Hun Sen arrives at Phnom Penh’s train station on Saturday before taking the recently restarted passenger service to Sihanoukville. (Pring Samrang/Reuters)

“Yesterday, I traveled from Phnom Penh to the Sihanoukville port by train, taking 7 hours,” Mr. Hun Sen said in the post, adding that the government was looking to reduce the travel time to five hours.

The prime minister said he would invite King Norodom Sihamoni to ride the train with him in the future to honor the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk, who oversaw the initial construction of the train tracks.

“The late King Norodom Sihanouk led the construction of the railways and the port,” he wrote, adding that he had spoken with Transport Minister Sun Chanthol and Royal Group CEO Kith Meng about the proposal.

“I will find a way to meet the king and invite the king to travel by train,” he said, also calling on the public to take the train and enjoy the free wireless internet and air conditioning available in some cars.

Responding to comments from Facebook users suggesting that the government build a passenger train line from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap, Mr. Hun Sen said it was under consideration. “It is being studied, and we are looking for funds to build it,” he said. “Our imports and exports have been more and more. So, we have to enhance the capacities of the port and the railways.”

John Guiry, CEO of Royal Railway, said on Sunday almost 400 passengers were on board with Mr. Hun Sen on Saturday. On its return service in the evening, Mr. Guiry said about 130 passengers rode the train to Phnom Penh, while 90 headed to Sihanoukville on Sunday morning.

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Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly identified Transport Minister Sun Chanthol as the commerce minister, his previous position.

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