Peering over a pair of bifocals, Sihanoukville Governor Say Hak is stern and professorial
- hardly the type to be driving one of the most dynamic economic engines of the new
But when he revs up, crunches some numbers and looks into the future - he's a dynamo
himself. He speaks loudly and gestures broadly; praising the hospitality boom, Kang
Keng Airport and oil speculation. Alternately, he holds little back: blasting poor-performing
investors, namely Malaysian firm Ariston, over-priced restaurants and a certain opposition
politician for his public remarks about a recent Sihanoukville land-grabbing case.
"Sihanoukville is a very important part of the county. Right now, it is the
most amazing city in Cambodia," he told the Post on August 3. "We have
all sectors-agriculture, industry and tourism-and all are prosperous."
A native of Koh Kong province, Hak is a former member of the cabinet of Prince Norodom
Ranariddh. He was appointed by Ranariddh as Sihanoukville governor in 2001. Today
he juggles the infrastructure needs of residents, businesses and developers in a
freewheeling city experiencing intense transition.
"I believe that the investment flowing into Sihanoukville will benefit all sectors
in terms of job creation, income and tax". He said
"We are preparing to develop all the coast, all the beaches and promote cultural
Hak points out that most exports from Phnom Penh's garment factories are shipped
from Sihanoukville Autonomous Port, and that with the eventual re-opening of Kang
Keng tourists will be able to travel from Angkor Wat to the beach in just hours.
According to Sihanoukville's tourism director, Som Chenda, roughly 210,000 tourists,
of which 25 percent were foreign tourists, visited the area for the first six months
"When Kang Keng Airport has regular flights, I think the tourist numbers will
increase. We expect to have 10 percent of [the national total of] two million foreign
tourists, and we foresee them spending at least $50 each, so this would be millions
coming back into Sihanoukville and reaching directly to the people."
Tourism, however, is only part of Hak's vision. "In the Sihanoukville Autonomous
Port, there will be an industrial zone created by the firm Atwood. This could create
more than 1,000 jobs for locals. If each spends $1 per day it will be about $30 million
each year. Combine this with tourism and we estimate about $60 million minimum coming
back into the economy in the future-and this is conservative, not considering any