Hun Sen, Vietnamese PM Sign Deals on Road, Drugs Fight

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday signed off on cooperation deals with his Vietnamese counterpart, including a new expressway linking the two countries.

Mr. Hun Sen and Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc met at the premier’s Peace Palace in Phnom Penh to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on numerous projects.

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Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, left, and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen meet in Phnom Penh on Tuesday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

The most significant of the pacts was a new expressway linking Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City via the border city of Bavet. There have been past discussions about the proposed 167-km toll road, but this marked the first time the two governments put pen to paper agreeing to cooperate in its construction.

Contacted after the ceremony, Transport Ministry spokesman Var Sim Sorya said the road was expected to cost more than $2 billion, which could potentially be borrowed from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

“JICA studied the plan and estimated the construction would cost more than $2 billion over 10 to 20 years,” Mr. Sim Sorya said, adding that the Finance Ministry still needed to study and approve the proposal.

“If the ministerial meeting agrees to the JICA study, Cambodia would recommend to borrow money from JICA,” he said.

Currently, the shortest route to Ho Chi Minh City is about 232 km along National Road 1, which also crosses the border at Bavet City.

The Vietnamese prime minister also offered $3 million to pay for a new drug rehabilitation center in Sihanoukville, said Kao Kim Huorn, a minister attached to Mr. Hun Sen.

It was announced earlier this month that the center would be located on 20 hectares of land donated by tycoon Mong Reththy.

An agreement was also made to cooperate in the fisheries sector, but little detail was given as to how.

Relations have been fraught between fishermen from the two countries in recent years, with Vietnamese fishermen accused of trawling within Cambodian waters.

Agriculture Minister Veng Sakhon said the MoU was “general” in tone regarding fisheries, and did not focus on illegal fishing.

“The MoU on the fishery sector was on general cooperation on research and exchange training,” he said.

“It doesn’t involve cracking down on illegal fishing. It’s for encouraging officials involved to strengthen fishery management and law,” Mr. Sakhon added.

Other projects agreed upon in the MoU relate to Vietnamese support for the construction of a new boulevard in Phnom Penh and a market in Tbong Khmum province, according to a post to the premier’s Facebook page.

“The Vietnamese prime minister provided $2 million to build Da Market in Tbong Khmum province as it is important for people to have business at the border in the near future,” the post says.

Correction: Earlier version of this article misspelled the name of  spokesman for Transport Ministry Var Sim Sorya. 

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