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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - 'The most amazing city in Cambodia'

'The most amazing city in Cambodia'

'The most amazing city in Cambodia'

Peering over a pair of bifocals, Sihanoukville Governor Say Hak is stern and professorial

- hardly the type to be driving one of the most dynamic economic engines of the new

Cambodian economy.

But when he revs up, crunches some numbers and looks into the future - he's a dynamo

himself. He speaks loudly and gestures broadly; praising the hospitality boom, Kang

Keng Airport and oil speculation. Alternately, he holds little back: blasting poor-performing

investors, namely Malaysian firm Ariston, over-priced restaurants and a certain opposition

politician for his public remarks about a recent Sihanoukville land-grabbing case.

"Sihanoukville is a very important part of the county. Right now, it is the

most amazing city in Cambodia," he told the Post on August 3. "We have

all sectors-agriculture, industry and tourism-and all are prosperous."

A native of Koh Kong province, Hak is a former member of the cabinet of Prince Norodom

Ranariddh. He was appointed by Ranariddh as Sihanoukville governor in 2001. Today

he juggles the infrastructure needs of residents, businesses and developers in a

freewheeling city experiencing intense transition.

"I believe that the investment flowing into Sihanoukville will benefit all sectors

in terms of job creation, income and tax". He said

"We are preparing to develop all the coast, all the beaches and promote cultural

tourism."

Hak points out that most exports from Phnom Penh's garment factories are shipped

from Sihanoukville Autonomous Port, and that with the eventual re-opening of Kang

Keng tourists will be able to travel from Angkor Wat to the beach in just hours.

According to Sihanoukville's tourism director, Som Chenda, roughly 210,000 tourists,

of which 25 percent were foreign tourists, visited the area for the first six months

of 2007.

"When Kang Keng Airport has regular flights, I think the tourist numbers will

increase. We expect to have 10 percent of [the national total of] two million foreign

tourists, and we foresee them spending at least $50 each, so this would be millions

coming back into Sihanoukville and reaching directly to the people."

Tourism, however, is only part of Hak's vision. "In the Sihanoukville Autonomous

Port, there will be an industrial zone created by the firm Atwood. This could create

more than 1,000 jobs for locals. If each spends $1 per day it will be about $30 million

each year. Combine this with tourism and we estimate about $60 million minimum coming

back into the economy in the future-and this is conservative, not considering any

oil revenue."

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