One of Phnom Penh's most prominent land-marks-the broken bridge spanning the Tonle
Sap-will be rebuilt with the next three years, thanks to the generosity of the Japanese
Under an agreement signed here late last month by Prince Norodom Sihanouk and Japanese
Ambassador to the Supreme National Council Yukio Imagawa, Tokyo has pledged grant
aid of U.S. $23 million to repair the Chroy Changwar bridge.
Khmer Rouge and communist Vietnamese sappers sent the central spans of the bridge
crashing into the river as they retreated from a fierce firefight with Lon Nol troops
in late 1972.
A French diplomat who was in Phnom Penh at the time said, "It took three days
to remove all the bodies."
Lon Nol troops, and later on Vietnamese and Phnom Penh government soldiers, were
forced to use the time-consuming Prek Kdam ferry crossing to reinforce posts against
Khmer Rouge attacks in the countryside.
However, Tokyo's gift should see reconstruction work on the key 709-meter-long gateway
to central and northern Cambodia start in December, with construction completed by
Imagawa said his government was also considering repairing Route 6A, which leads
from the bridge to the important crossroads town of Skoun, where it meets the strategic
Highway Six linking Phnom Penh to Kompong Thom, Siem Reap and Sisophon.
"This bridge is of very great economic, social and strategic importance for
the defense and building up of an independent and prosperous Cambodia," said
Prince Norodom Sihanouk, who commissioned the 1960-63 construction of the crossing
by Japan's Taisei Construction Co.
Several Japanese construction and engineering companies are interested in the project
and have sent technical teams to Phnom Penh in recent weeks, Japanese diplomats said.
The three central spans will have to be replaced along with two reinforced concrete
piers in the middle of the river.
The government-run Japan International Cooperation Agency is handling bidding, while
speculators have been snapping up property on the Chroy Changwar side of the river
in expectations of a boom once the bridge and Route 6A are complete.
In the meantime food and drink vendors have been capitalizing on the impressive vantage
points from the bridge by setting up stalls there for weekend passersby.