Sonatra Group chairman Sorn Sokna (fifth left) shake hands with Tsutsui Osamu during the memorandum of understanding signing ceremony on Monday. Photograph: Photo Supplied
A GROUP of Japanese businessmen yesterday signed a memorandum of understanding with Sonatra Group chairman Sorn Sokna to develop a special economic zone along the Mekong River at the site of the Prey Veng ferry terminals.
The ferry service is expected to become redundant when the adjacent Japanese-funded bridge is completed next year.
Tsutsui Osamu, who serves as the chairman of Wakyo Sokai Limited, represents an association of overseas Japanese investors who are already doing business in China, Vietnam and other countries.
Sokna said the idea of using the ferry-terminal land on both sides of the Mekong had come from Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for the Interior Sor Kheng, who saw an opportunity to use the area to attract investors, build fact-ories and provide employment for the relatively poor people of Prey Veng.
Sokna, the chairman of Sonatra Securities and a former Sokimex official, founded the Financial Institute of Cambodia and has been a minority owner of restaurants and real-estate projects.
He said he already had 10 Japanese investors with commitments to build factories for phase one of the project, but was seeking commitment from 25 investors before the project got under way.
He believes 15 more investors will come in when the Japanese delegation informs other members of their association about the project.
“Sor Kheng was thinking that Prey Veng had no economic activity and that people always had go outside to find a job,” Sokna said.
“They need to export rice and rubber and everything.”
Sokna said the initial investment in the project would be about $10 million.
The Sonatra Group of companies will be the developer of the project.
“The purpose of the signing ceremony this morning was to raise more money from other investors,” Sokna said.
“Some Japanese local governments are interested in co-operating with Cambodia in the development of special economic zones,” he said.
As the idea for the river port and economic zone had come from Sor Kheng, the government had already approved the project, Sokna said.
Paperwork and plans were now under review at the Council for the Development of Cambodia, he said.
Youn Heng, director of the evaluation and incentive department of the Cambodian Investment Board, could not be reached for comment.
According to data from the CDC, Cambodia has 22 spec-ial economic zones.