Ever since the project to construct part of the ASEAN Highway on National Road 6 to the north of Tonle Sap was solidified in 2009, hectares of rice farms around the lake have been turned into residential houses, storage houses and parking lots.
Land prices have skyrocketed in the years following the projects announcement. Farm land that used to be worth $4,000 per hectare – $0.50 per square metre – is now priced at $30 to $40 per square metre and serves as such an example.
Yong Senghak, vice district chief of Sroyov, located along National Road 6 on the new detour road of Steung Saen town, said that farmland in Sroyov has become more attractive in the last few years “since the construction of the ASEAN highway, and [the land] will possibly become even more expensive now.”
He said that people in the area partly price the sale of their land according to the distance from the National Road.
“Within three months in mid-2016, there have been locals and newcomers building houses and storage houses along this new road from the new bridge that crosses Steung Saen; both on the south and north of the riverbank,” Senghak said.
A 60-year-old retired Royal Cambodian Armed Force officer, who owns some land along this new detour road, expressed his optimism in the infrastructure development.
“Prior to this, we did not know what we could rely on, but after the new detour road was built, I have new hopes because my family has two pieces of land in this area. We can build a house on one piece and do some business.”
The retired officer is seemingly in the know about plans to expand Steung Saen town, as he claimed that “Kampong Thom or Steung Saen will be expanded to the north of the city town or north of Steung Saen along this new road because there is a new market and a water supply authority office. Besides, the land in this area is on higher ground compared to other areas around this old town.”
Another farmland owner along the new detour road, located south of Steung Saen, has put up a sign saying “Plotted land for sale: 10 metres x 90 metres along National Road 6, Steung Saen town detour road”.
He said, “This plotted land is being sold for $3,500 per walking metre (around $38 per square metre), and the price is open to slight negotiation. This land has been farmland for a long time. The water is not even one metre deep during the rainy season and heavy floods.”
Tiv Vanthy, head of the agriculture department in Kampong Thom, said after the construction of the 10-kilometre long ASEAN highway road, five districts seem to have been expanded. “Sroyov, Domrey Chun Khla, Kampong Rotes, Oh Kuntha, and Prey Hu districts have changed from agricultural land to residential and commercial land.”
“Even the Palang Rice Station, which is the agriculture department’s sample rice farm, is located within the proximity of the new road,” Vanthy said. “Basically the land price in this area has been increasing since 2014, when the road construction really kicked into gear, causing many people to go wild with land trading.”
He added, “The farm land along this road is about $200,000 per hectare, while before the road’s construction it was only $5,000 to $6,000 per hectare.”
Although the land prices along the new road detouring Steung Saen are increasing noticeably, Steung Saen town governor Hok Ren declined to provide the details of the land market in the area because it is private property.
He disclosed that the town authority will work hard to help people who are planning to move to the new sites along the new road, “but right now, our town still lacks clean water, so it remains a problem for the new location, and we can see that the landowners there are getting ready to fill up the land in hopes of developing their property.”
“The lands along the new road are mostly the locals’ farm lands. Some others have been bought by people in Steung Saen town, and a few other pieces have been bought by people from afar such as from Phnom Penh,” Ren added.
“Right now, Kampong Thom province and Steung Saen town authorities are busy renovating the town by installing streetlights, renovating the parks, and constructing two big roundabouts; one entering the town from the south, and the other one on the new road in the north of the town.”
He said the new road will make it convenient for big trucks to pass, “but the authority is still trying to attract tourist vans and tourists to pass through this old town, so that they can learn about the beauty of this town along Steung Saen; a town that has seen diverse cultures since the Sambo Preykok era of the 7th century up till now.”
Ang Kimeang, former head of Cambodia Association of Travel Agents (CATA) said, “Within the last few years, Steung Sen has seen an increase in big architecture buildings in the hospitality sector such as Arunras Hotel, Golden Chenla Hotel, and Sambor Village Hotel.”
These hospitality improvements also include Glorious Hotel & Spa, a four-star hotel with 89 rooms that was launched in March 2016. Besides those, there are a number of big hotel developments along Steung Sen that are scheduled to finish soon, according to Kimeang.
Kim Heang, president of CVEA, told Post Property earlier this week, “I am optimistic about the future of Steung Saen town because it is almost located in the centre of Cambodia. This town is on the National Road 6, the road from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap and Sereysophorn town in Bantey Meanchey.”
“It’s considered to be an economic entry point on the north of Tonle Sap between Bangkok, Phnom Penh, and Ho Chi Minh.”
This week, Post Property was unable to contact Em Sokdyna, head of Kampong Thom Province municipal cadastral survey, for further details.
The ASEAN Highway project is a series of roads that links Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand. The first major completion of the ASEAN highway in Cambodia was in 2011, linking Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. At present, there are still a number of roads under construction before the entire connectivity network is completed and becomes fully operational.