Pang Nakry Real Estate Co Ltd, a Cambodian-Chinese-Thai joint venture, on March 8 opened Banteay Meanchey province’s first steelworks, in the southwestern district of Malai, according to the provincial administration.

The plant is located in its own special economic zone on National Road 59 in Khla Ngoap (Dead Tiger) village of Tuol Pongro (Kusum Tree Hillock) commune not far from the Thai border, the administration said in a press release on March 8.

Pang Nakri Real Estate representative Tek Bunthoeun said the launch was “the company’s contribution” to job creation and the transformation of Malai, a region splashed with the blood of battles from a bygone era, into a development area.

“Reaching a settlement and applying for a licence to open the first steel plant in Banteay Meanchey – these moves were made to join the competent authorities of the Royal Government to develop the local economy, and especially to transform previously remote forest areas, former war zones and minefields into a development zone,” the statement quoted him as saying.

The undertaking has set the company back about $3 million to date, including the costs associated with the factory, a marketplace and related facilities, services and infrastructure, all of which are “in line with the Royal Government’s policy”, he said.

But the company has no plans to stop with the launch of the steelworks. Bunthoeun revealed that a tyre factory and other ventures were in the pipeline for the zone, which he said would deliver new jobs for locals.

He added that the company would also plant 330,000 trees on a 50ha plot, namely 20,000 pink shower trees (Cassia grandis), 10,000 royal poincianas (Delonix regia) and 300,000 Thai crepe myrtles (Lagerstroemia floribunda).

Provincial governor Oum Reatrey said the launch of the steelworks reflects the private sector’s confidence in Banteay Meanchey, expressing high expectations for its job creation potential.

“Provincial authorities welcome private sector investment in the province. Officials at all levels will continue to streamline and make it easier for Cambodian and foreign players to come and invest more,” he said.

Despite Covid slowdown in the construction sector, Cambodia imported $1.43 billion worth of building materials in the first 10 months of 2021, an uptick of 21 per cent from $1.18 billion in the same period a year earlier, the latest figures from the Ministry of Commerce show.

Cement imports, however, fell 33 per cent to $40 million in January-October, versus $59 million in the same period of 2020, the ministry reported.

On the plus side, the Kingdom bought steel and “other construction materials” to the tune of $326 million and $1.063 billion, respectively, marking a one per cent and 33 per cent rise from $321 million and $802 million, it said.