Timber magnate Try Pheap signed off on a $300 million seaport project with industry heavyweight Hutchison Port Holdings on Monday, according to Kep provincial governor Ken Sotha, who attended the event.
The project will be the first wet port for Mr. Pheap, whose eponymous Try Pheap Group owns a variety of business ventures across the country, including two dry ports that rights groups have accused him of using to launder millions of dollars worth of illegally logged timber and export it to Vietnam and China. Mr. Pheap, an advisor to Prime Minister Hun Sen, denies the claims.
“The two companies held the signing ceremony in Kep province, but the international port is going to be built in Kampot province,” Mr. Sotha said on Tuesday. “Try Pheap said during the ceremony that the port will play an important role in serving sea transport and that the port will also be used to transport oil.”
Mr. Pheap, he added, said the partners would invest a combined $300 million in the project and start construction soon, with the hope of finishing in 2019.
Neither Kampot provincial governor Koy Khun Huor nor representatives of Mr. Pheap could be reached on Tuesday.
Hutchison declined to discuss the project.
“We do not comment on our future port development plans,” the company said in an email.
The Hong Kong-based firm calls itself the the world’s leading port investor, developer and operator, with business at 48 ports across 25 countries around the globe.
A spokeswoman for the Commerce Ministry, which regulates Cambodia’s foreign trade, said she did not know about the project. Var Sim Sorya, a spokesman for the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, said he did not know about it, either.
“Every company is required to register with the Ministry of Public Works and Transport if it wants to build a port, but the Try Pheap company has not come to register,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Zsombor Peter)