Calling the new $56 million bridge spanning the Mekong river Cambodia’s “priceless wealth,” Prime Minister Hun Sen thanked the Japanese government at an inauguration ceremony Tuesday for funding and building the 1.36 km-long bridge.
Kompong Cham Governor Cheang Am told the huge crowd that it previously took villagers about one hour to get from one side of the river to the other using the small, slow-moving ferry.
“This bridge will eliminate difficulties for our people. Taxi drivers will save money they used to pay to the ferry,” he said.
The bridge, which took almost three years to complete, was finished four months ahead of schedule. It connects the 16 districts of Cambodia’s most populated province. Current road projects will also link Kompong Cham’s 1.6 million people with markets in the northeast and those in Laos and Vietnam.
The bridge is the most important piece of a “growth corridor” that will stimulate the economy of other provinces, officials have said. In turn, that could spark an economic revival in Kompong Cham, where rubber, bananas, cashews, sugar cane and rice are grown and exported.
With improved roads and the new bridge, a farmer in Mondolkiri province can bring his goods to Kompong Cham to trade with a businessman from Kompong Thom province. The bridge could also entice more people to return to live in the province, which once was a cultural and educational center, analysts have said.
“In Japan, America or France, this bridge would be small. But for Cambodia, it is priceless wealth,” Hun Sun said during the televised ribbon-cutting event.
While thanking the Japanese government Tuesday, Hun Sen also asked Japan to continue its financial help for Cambodia, “because among Asean [nations], Cambodia is the poorest,” he said.
The prime minister said that Cambodia still must integrate its rural areas with urban centers.
Japan is Cambodia’s largest single donor, pledging $115 million at last June’s meeting of Cambodia’s international donors.