Timber magnate Try Pheap will export 100,000 Chinese- made motorcycles to Burma out of a new assembly plant his company inaugurated in Kandal province on Wednesday, and is closing in on a deal for 50,000 more with Russia, a company representative said on Thursday.
The $50 million assembly plant in Ang Snuol district, a joint venture with China’s Si-chuan Grand Royal Group, aims to assemble up to 200,000 Hunjia motorcycles by the end of the year with parts imported from China, said Rey Vanny, a deputy director for the Try Pheap Grand Royal.
The factory marks yet another expansion of a sprawling business empire being cobbled together by Mr. Pheap, who made his first millions trading and exporting timber, much of it illegally logged and laundered, according to a number of NGOs.
On top of his casinos, pepper farms and rubber plantations, he has launched a petroleum company and started construction on a $300 million port in Kampot province.
Mr. Vanny said the motorcycle plant would start assembly in March with about 600 workers and gear up to 3,000 employees by year’s end.
“We recently signed a deal with Myanmar; they will buy 100,000 motorcycles from our company in the first year,” he said, using another name for Burma. “Russia will buy 50,000 motorcycles. We also plan to sell 30,000 to 50,000 motorcycles a year in Cambodia.”
The motorcycles will range from 110cc to 250cc and go for under $1,000 up to $1,800.
The company started out by donating 228 of them on Wednesday to a number of government agencies, including state bodyguards, National Police and the Environment Ministry.
“Our company has not yet signed a contract with any government institution, but we have a plan to talk with those institutions and ask them to buy motorcycles from the company in the future,” he said. “We hope our company’s motorcycles can compete with imports because they are of good quality and sell for a low price.”
As a timber trader, Mr. Pheap, who serves as an adviser to Prime Minister Hun Sen, has bought millions of dollars worth of luxury-grade timber seized by authorities from illegal loggers. Though the government is required by law to auction off such wood, the government has not been able to produce any evidence that auctions for the timber Mr. Pheap bought were ever arranged.
Rights groups that have investigated Mr. Pheap’s operations have accused him of operating a massive illegal logging and timber laundering operation, claims his company has denied.
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