Southern Cambodia’s Dara Sakor is a special economic zone encompassing nearly 140 square miles (363 sq km). It is carved out of the Botum Sakor National Park. Running alongside Cambodia’s Koh Kong province, the coast constitutes almost 20% of this Southeast Asian nation located on the Gulf of Thailand’s coastline. Dara Sakor was adopted as a Chinese project under the Belt and Road Initiative in 2007.
Then, in 2008, the Cambodian government granted a 99-year lease to a state-owned Chinese company, Union Development Group (UDG). UDG is a subsidiary construction company of China’s Tianjin Union Development Group that operates in the northern city of Tianjin.
The lease period of 99 years is the maximum term allowed under Cambodian law. Moreover, the lease imposed no payment obligation on the development group for more than 10 years. Even after the initial lease period, Cambodia receives only $1 million USD annually from UDG. Meanwhile, the company gains control of 20% of the country’s entire coastline.