Cambodia has authorised the FOCUS Consortium to initiate a feasibility study on an investment project for constructing a new airport in Mondulkiri province, envisioning it as part of a satellite town development initiative.

The government has permitted the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SCCA) to collaborate with the consortium, according to a January 9 letter from the Office of the Council of Ministers signed by secretary of state Chheang Vannarith.

The partnership aims to prepare a development investment project for the proposed Mondulkiri Provincial Airport, adhering to Cambodian law and procedures.

Sin Chanserey Vutha, spokesperson for the SSCA, noted on January 15 that the government had initially authorised China Power to explore the airport investment project. 

However, the Covid-19 crisis adversely impacted the financial climate, prompting the Chinese company to withdraw and put the project on hold.

He explained that the government has now decided to allow FOCUS to undertake the study and investment.

The consortium, led by Focus Trans Global Venture Co Ltd, consists of investors from Malaysia, China and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). 

The project will adopt a Build-Transfer-Operate (BTO) model, incorporating the development of a multi-purpose satellite town and air cargo centre in the province.

“The new company needs only to conduct the study to reach the investment decision. If the study outcome is unfavourable, investment cannot proceed. Therefore, we must await [the results] before making any further decisions,” Chanserey Vutha stated.

Regarding the previous project by China Power, the SSCA spokesperson noted it had a planned a construction area of 300ha, with costs exceeding $80 million. 

However, he could not confirm the budget and construction area for the new company’s study project.

“If the project succeeds, Mondulkiri will experience enhanced economic activity, particularly in agro-industry and tourism. This is in line with the National Strategic Development Plan and the tourism development plan. The government has identified Mondulkiri as a province with significant potential for economic improvement,” he added.

Hong Vanak, an economics researcher at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, emphasised the importance of constructing an additional airport for national development. 

He highlighted that the selected province for the new airport is a key tourist destination and economic hub.

He added that the long distance from Mondulkiri to Phnom Penh makes it a suitable location for an airport, facilitating investment in various sectors, notably tourism and agro-industry.

“Facilitating travel will increase the appeal for investors in tourism and agro-industry. Mondulkiri, with its beautiful nature and cool climate, has untapped potential that can contribute to the national economy,” Vanak said.