Government spokesman Phay Siphan said on Monday that Preah Sihanouk province will become a second Singapore, as authorities were warned that its development, fuelled largely by Chinese investment, was coming at a cost to locals.
Siphan was speaking at a press conference after a seminar held in the province on its development.
He said the progress in Preah Sihanouk is not only due to investment from Chinese partners but also to a dynamic relationship with the Kingdom’s Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) neighbours.
“Sihanoukville town and Preah Sihanouk province together with other coastal provinces are a real destination for friendship, peace, cooperation and development, so those who criticise are jealous of Cambodia developing itself to the equal of neighbouring countries and competing on the global free-trade stage.”
He said some politicians had used Preah Sihanouk province as a target for political attacks, but the fact was it had developed in all areas, including the construction of roads, large building projects and casinos, and in other service sectors which made a large number of Chinese nationals arrive for work.
Not all bad news
Ky Sereyvath, director of the Chinese Study Centre at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said the influx of Chinese was not a negative situation.
“I calculated exports from Cambodia to China from 2012 to 2018, and the annual average increased more than 27 per cent, while China exported only 16 per cent to Cambodia over the same timeframe.”
He said ties with China would benefit Cambodia with exports, while the Kingdom also exported to other countries in Europe and the Asean region.
Cheap Sotheary, Adhoc coordinator for human rights in Preah Sihanouk province, said while she was happy with developing the province, it had come at a cost to the beauty of the area.
She said locals had also complained of increased problems with security and public order while facing rising prices for goods, rent, housing and guesthouse rates and bad traffic congestion.
“The development has changed Preah Sihanouk dramatically, but I would like to ask authorities to help resolve the problems with rubbish, [public] order, security, polluted water and electricity outages."
“We acknowledge that our country has free trade, but please help keep jobs for locals because now Chinese nationals run small businesses like Cambodians, even selling fried bananas, some sell roast corn and some sell porridge,” Sotheary said.