Russian Investors Eyeing Sihanoukville Islands Shoping in Sihanoukville

Reports that Russian investors are interested in developing island re­sorts off the coast of Siha­nouk­ville could lead to land speculation on what have been until now largely un­touched isles, officials said Thurs­day.

Sihanoukville Deputy Municipal Governor Sboang Sarath said he was aware that Russian entrepreneurs were looking for an island to invest in, but authorities had not yet met with them to discuss any plans.

So far, he said, “None of the is­lands have been given to in­ves­tors.”

An official at the Council for the Development of Cambodia said that no plans for the islands have reached the CDC, but rumors of com­ing investment could cause problems.

“I worry that people will want to keep islands for speculation,” the official said on condition of anony­mity.

Currently, only Koh Doung, near the port, has been granted to So­ki­mex President Sok Kong, the CDC official said.

In January, Russian tycoon Kon­stantin Kagalovsky met with Prime Minister Hun Sen and expressed in­terest in developing Koh Rong, a large island to the west of Si­ha­nouk­ville, into a tourist site and in­dustrial and pharmaceutical complex.

No proposal or deal has yet come out of this discussion, said Eang Sophallet, an assistant to Hun Sen, on Thursday.

Sok Kong confirmed that he built three villas for relaxation on Doung island eight years ago, but said he had only borrowed the half-hectare property from the government.

He added that he does not pay the government for use of the island.

“It’s just for relaxation. It’s too small to develop as a tourist resort,” he added.

Tourism Minister Lay Prohas said that he, too, was concerned that speculation could spread to the islands. “When people hear about the investment, people will try to capture the islands for speculation,” he said. “What we want is real in­vest­ment.”

Russian investors are interested in a “business complex” on Koh Pos, said Nikolay Dorashenko, the Uz­bek owner of a Sihanoukville restaurant, who is currently setting up another restaurant on Koh Dek Korl.

Dorashenko, however, was un­able to give details of the project.

Sok Sam Oeun, director of the Cambodian Defenders Project, said that islands are state public property and so cannot be sold or leased, but the government can convert them to state private property, at which point they can be leased.

Koh Kong Governor Yuth Phou­thang and Kampot Governor Thach Khon said they were not aware of any Russian interest in islands off the coast of their provinces, but added that they would welcome such projects if they got approval from the government.

   (Additional reporting by Erik Wasson)



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