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Cambodia’s China-Built Expressway Opens to Traffic

Cambodia’s first expressway was opened to public use on China’s National Day and is free for one month. As a benchmark project of China’s “Belt & Road Initiative,” the 187-kilometer highway connecting the capital city of Phnom Penh and the southwest port of Preah Sihanouk cost $2 billion, and will reduce the driving time between the two cities from 5 hours to 2 hours. The project is a Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) contract project, with a 50-year license and toll system.

Cambodia’s Khmer Times newspaper reported that South Korea’s Green Eco Energy once bid $536 million to build the project in November 2015, with a 35-year contracting period. In the same year, China’s Henan provincial government submitted a quote of $1.6 billion at the time of signing the MOU. It is not uncommon that Chinese companies often overbid infrastructure projects so that involved officials can take kickbacks.

According to the local Cambodian news network, at the end of October 2021, the Cambodian government forcibly demolished a number of residential buildings during land acquisition for the project, sparking outrage online.

The China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC), the state conglomerate that undertook the construction of the Phnom Penh-Sihanouk Expressway, signed a contract with the Cambodian government in September to conduct a study and is set to start construction of the country’s second expressway in the middle of next year, It will link Phnom Penh to the Vietnamese border at Bavet City, and will have a length of more than 100 kilometers.

Source: Radio Free Asia, September 28, 2022