The Ministry of Public Works and Transport is raising funds to temporarily facilitate traffic on a heavily damaged 20km stretch of road from Kampot province to neighbouring Preah Sihanouk’s Veal Rinh commune while awaiting a concessional loan from Chinese entities. The stretch requires an estimated $60 to $70 million to be reconstructed entirely and in accordance with technical standards.

Public works minister Sun Chanthol said Cambodia had submitted a written letter to a “Chinese entity” requesting a concessional loan for the reconstruction.

“Prime Minister Hun Sen asked the Chinese entity to help with [finding] a concessional loan to build this 20km road, and the Ministry of Economy and Finance has written to the Chinese embassy to request a budget. We are waiting for the official budget from the Chinese … as a loan to build this road following technical standards,” he said.

He said that the ministry is “not indifferent” to the condition of the road and its maintenance while it was awaiting the loan, and has been looking for funding to repair it as a stopgap.

“Before we receive the loan, [we acknowledge] the road is significantly damaged and difficult to travel on, especially during the rainy season. National Road 4 [NR4] is widening, so there is congestion, which has caused some people to detour through NR3, leading to busy traffic on the road from Kampot to Veal Rinh,” he said.

“To solve this problem, I am trying to find a source of funding to facilitate traffic – not to a high standard, admittedly, but it is a temporary measure so that it will not be too difficult to travel on this 20km stretch of road until we find the funds to reconstruct it to a standard where it is strong and durable,” he said.

A study on reconstructing the road according to technical standards revealed that the project is estimated to cost between $60-to $70 million.

It showed that 5km of the stretch was revealed to have damaged foundations 18m deep, while 15km has been assessed to require reinforcement for its foundations.

“We needed the company to study this road to prevent it from collapsing again,” he said. “Once we have reconstructed the road according to technical standards, it will last for a long time.”

The road has already undergone maintenance works four times, he added, but the repairs were short-lived as a result of structural deficiencies stemming from the geography of the area not being properly studied by the ministry.

Additionally, the construction budget for the road at the time was “only about $20 million”, Chanthol said.

He added that the ministry has also studied the possibility of building a bypass or reconstructing the road entirely on a different plot of land, but conceded the latter was not possible because the area was surrounded by soft soil.

Chanthol also called on transportation companies not to overload their trucks – a notorious cause of road damage across the country – stressing that owners of overloaded vehicles could face “up to a year” in jail and “harsh” fines.

He said the ministry has seized “about 160” vehicles, of which more than 10 per cent were found to be overloaded, and has impounded them for one year with penalties issued.

The Kampot-Veal Rinh section of NR3 stretches 54km, 34km of which will be reconstructed through funding from the World Bank.