Massive Chinese Tourism Project is Underway, Officials Say

A $3.8-billion Chinese tourism project in Koh Kong province has begun construction, provincial officials said yesterday.

Koh Kong Deputy Governor Sun Dara said that the China-based Union Development Group, which had its investment approved by the government in January 2008, began building a port in Kiri Sakor district’s Koh Sdech commune in April.

The company “is now bringing in construction materials for the establishment of a trade zone and new town,” Mr Dara said, adding that the project’s master plan covered 36,000 hectares of land in Botum Sakor and Kiri Sakor districts.

Mr Dara said that the project consists of six developments, which include an airport, a golf course, an eco-tourism site and a large commercial zone with hotels, restaurants and retail stores. Construction of the project will last about 25 years, he added.

Reached by telephone yesterday, an official at the Chinese company declined to comment.

Ho Vandy, co-chair of a government-private sector working group on tourism policy, welcomed the project, saying it would help attract more international visitors to Cambodia and create jobs for the local population.

“I pray that this project is completed successfully,” he said.

Despite optimism that the project would bolster Cambodia’s tourism sector, villagers and human rights workers said it was stirring up fear among local communities that their land could be lost.

On May 18, about 240 villagers protested against the development at Wat Botum in Phnom Penh, said Un Thanonn, provincial coordinator for local rights group Adhoc.

“There are about three communes affected by the development,” he said.

Rov Ratanak Sambath, Koh Sdech commune chief, said about 326 families in the area had agreed to accept compensation to make way for the construction of the port.

“We have already solved the problem, because villagers agreed to compensation under the government’s policy,” he said.

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