Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh told investors last week that a years-old plan to turn an airstrip in Kompong Chhnang province into a cargo hub may soon become a reality.
Cham Prasidh said that the government and “one company” are ironing out a $500 million plan to continue work on the project. Work on the cargo airport idea has started and stopped several times since 1996.
Radene Sok, assistant to the chairman of Australia’s Financial Technology Australia (PPE) Ltd, said Monday that the chairman still is reviewing the details of its contract with the government and would address the subject next week.
One company official said last week that airport workers had already begun cleaning the building site and that construction is already under way.
“The new company is 100 percent sure [of its commitment to develop]. The company has enough money to invest through the original plans,” the official said.
Aiming also to develop the area around the planned cargo hub, Cham Prasidh has been working to persuade foreign investors to construct warehouses, stores and other related infrastructure in Kompong Chhnang town.
Ministry of Commerce Director General Mao Thura said Cham Prasidh plans to visit the airport with New Zealand’s minister of trade on March 24 to explore possible development opportunities.
Mao Thura said the New Zealand delegation seems interested in investing, but “the issue will be discussed more on the day that the two trade ministers meet.”
Thousands of laborers, all working under the supervision of a handful of Chinese military advisers, built the large airstrip during the Khmer Rouge regime.
About 12,000 hectares of land have been set aside in recent years for development by the Kompong Chhnang Provincial Authority, said Kompong Chhnang Governor Sou Phirin.
Although the airport’s 3.2 km-long runway is long enough to receive aircraft as big as Boeing 747s, it does not meet the international standards that would allow it to become a large-scale transit site, said Sou Phirin. Still, officials are hoping that a successful small-scale cargo hub could produce thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in revenue.
Soy Sokha, economic adviser to Minister of Cabinet Sok An, said several foreign companies are interested in investing in the cargo hub but are unwilling to commit because it is still unclear where the millions of dollars needed to develop the site will come from.
The project has been riddled with financial problems since a deal was first sealed between the government and the Malaysia-based DragonGold company in 1996.