THE now deserted runways of Kompong Chhnang airport will operate as a 24-hour international
air cargo terminal inside a free enterprise zone, according to plans approved in
principle by Cambodia's two Prime Ministers in early May.
On May 8 Prince Ranariddh and Hun Sen gave the green light to the Malaysian-based
company, Chhnang Global, to develop a multi-billion dollar regional cargo and light
manufacturing center on the site, according to a letter signed by the Prime Ministers
and seen by the Post.
Chhnang Global, an Australian-Malaysian Company, could not be contacted to confirm
the agreement, but Phnom Penh-based industry sources who requested anonimity said
a memorandum of understanding is likely to be signed within the next six weeks.
"Some of the world's largest air cargo companies are eyeing this development,
as air freighting facilities in places like Hong Kong and Singapore are becoming
inadequate," the source said.
"The Kompong Chhnang airport has the size and regional location to be attractive
internationally as the world's first 'cargo only' airport," he added.
The airport would be the main draw card for foreign light manufacturing and courier
companies who now cannot get near other airports in the region because of traffic
jams and prohibitive airport taxes, the source said.
"The development would attract particularly computor chip companies and garment
manufacturers who need to get goods out quickly," he said.
"The airport would also get Cambodian products like fish, fruit, vegetables
and flowers out onto the tables of Asia and Europe".
The massive cement tarmac at Kompong Chhnang was laid during the Khmer Rouge regime,
funded by China and built with the sweat and blood of hundreds of thousands of Cambodian
laborers. It was to be used as a military air base.
Close to 350,000 people are believed to have died from exhaustion, disease and execution
during the massive construction project.
The derlict airport now used occasionally for emergency landings or by the airforce
has been eyed by foreign investors because of it's size, and location close to road,
rail and water transport routes.
The Chhnang Global project which reportedly will be a joint venture with the Cambodian
government could see over $3 billion invested and close to 10,000 Cambodians employed,
over a fifteen year period, one government official said.
The project would construct air freight hangers , upgrade airport facilities and
establish an adjoining free-enterprise light industrial zone, and wharf and eco-tourism
facilities on the Mekong.
Cambodian Investment Board (CIB) director Ith Vichit said the CIB was not aware of
firm plans for the project but other CIB officials said many investment projects
were now authorised without CIB involvement in the early stages.
After their May letter of support to Chhnang Global's directors both Prime Ministers
called for Cambodia to "open it's skies to all international air carriers"
a move seen to be the paving way for the Kompong Chhnang project.