Cambodian and Chinese officials and business leaders yesterday signed 19 agreements during a visit to Phnom Penh by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, boosting Chinese investment at a time when the regional power has upped its economic and political support for Hun Sen’s government.
In a rushed signing ceremony that lasted less than 10 minutes, the 19 deals were signed by various representatives from the two countries’ governments, as well as high-profile business leaders. No questions were fielded by the officials, and few details about the agreements – which could heavily impact Cambodia’s future development – were provided.
Agreements were signed by the Cambodian ministers of agriculture, health, industry, transportation, labour, finance and commerce, as well as high-profile tycoons like Royal Group’s Kith Meng, Attwood Investment Group’s Lim Chivv Ho, and Overseas Cambodian Investment Corporation’s (OCIC) Chairman Pung Kheav Se.
The 19 agreements include a concession agreement to build the long-awaited “Sihanoukville Expressway”, a financing cooperation agreement for a new airport in Phnom Penh and a framework agreement for a “Techo 1” communication satellite.
The Sihanoukville Expressway agreement was signed by Public Works and Transport Minister Sun Chanthol, whose ministry has been working on the project since at least 2015. Chanthol could not be reached for comment yesterday.
A copy of the concession agreement obtained by The Post says the project could cost up to $1.8 billion and take up to four years to build once construction starts. China’s state-owned China Communication’s Construction Co will be responsible for the costs associated with the project, and will collect tolls on the road to recoup its investment.
Ministry of Public Works and Transport spokesman Va Sim Sorya said yesterday that the expressway would likely infringe upon people’s existing homes and land, but said it would be up to the company – with the help of the ministry – to provide fair compensation for those individuals.
“The company will provide an appropriate solution and we, as the ministry, will be in charge in giving the facilitation,” he said, adding that the project could begin construction in the next six months.
As for Phnom Penh’s new international airport, Kheav Se inked a financing cooperation framework with the state-run China Development Bank. An assistant of Kheav Se yesterday said the project would require around 1,500 to 1,800 hectares of land, and would begin sometime in the next three years, but declined to provide details of the financing agreement.
Sinn Chanserey Vutha, spokesman of State Secretariat of Civil Aviation, said the agreement would help realise the government’s plan to have a new airport by 2025.
When asked for details, such as the potential location of the new facility, the spokesman said that OCIC would be in charge proposing a location, with the government only approving a finalised plan.
Meanwhile, Kith Meng, the head of the Royal Group conglomerate, signed an agreement with the president of China Great Wall Industry Corporation to build Cambodia’s first communications satellite.
A subsidiary of Royal Group was given a concession to build the country’s first satellite back in 2011, but the plan never came to fruition. The framework agreement signed yesterday for the satellite – named “Techo 1”, which means “a strong power” and is also a Cambodian royal honourific bestowed upon Prime Minister Hun Sen – would be the country’s first satellite.
The Chinese company previously helped Laos launch its first satellite in 2015.
Other agreements signed yesterday included an “Agreement on Economic and Technical Cooperation”, an “Exchange of Notes on Provision of batch of materials”, an “Agreement on Establishment of High Value Tree Species Breeding Center” and two memoranda of understanding on the “rice trade” and “rice research”. No details about the agreements were provided.