Cambodia confirms two new airports in Siem Reap and Koh Kong

The current Siem Reap international airport

According to the Phnom Penh Post, Yunnan Investment Holdings Ltd (YIHL), the Chinese state-run company that plans to build Siem Reap’s new international airport, will begin construction next year and over the course of three phases, Sinn Chanserey Vutha, spokesman of the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation, confirmed yesterday.

The company is due to invest $500 million into the first and second phase, and $300 million for the third phase of what is called NSRIA (New Siem Reap International Airport). According to Cambodian authorities, the airport should take two to three years to complete. However, YIHL indicated previously that it would take up to five years to finish the project.

The company iss currently clearing the 750 hectares of land that sits 50 kilometres away from Siem Reap. The future airport is due to have a capacity for 10 million passengers while Siem Reap received last year 3.5 million passengers.

In October 2016, the Cambodian government reached an agreement with China’s state-run Yunnan Investment Holdings Ltd (YIHL) to build a new $880 million airport to serve Siem Reap. The agreement gave YIHL and its construction and airport management subsidiaries an exclusive 55-year build, operate, transfer (BOT) concession on the new airport. The new contract would de facto replace the current exclusive agreement with Cambodia Airports, a subsidiary of French Vinci Group. The concession for Siem Reap is due to expire in 2040 but the Government declared to negotiate with Vinci the termination of the contract. Vinci invested a couple of 100 millions of dollars to expand the airport to a capacity of five million passengers.

In another development, the Cambodian government confirmed in June that a new international airport in Koh Kong province, along the Gulf of Siam and in the vicinity to Thailand, would start to be constructed from January next year. The contract has been given -once again- to a Chinese company, the Tianjin Union Development Group (UDG), which is currently developing the Dara Sakor Seashore Resort on 45,000 hectares of land commissioned to UDG by the Cambodian government

The future airport would be constructed in three phases, with phase one commencing in January 2018 at a projected cost of between $300 and $350 million. The airport will stretch over 750 hectares of land and would be able to receive medium-sized aircraft, mostly from China. It would take some 30 months to complete phase one at a cost of US$500 million.

Talking to the Phnom Penh Post, Ho Vandy, advisor to the Cambodia Chamber of Commerce, pointed out the massive scale of not only the airport project, but the districts that have been commissioned to UDG. The 45,000 hectares of land encompass two districts – Botum Sakor and Thmor Bang. “This is a major investment for China,” he said.

Cambodian authorities announced also earlier this year to look at moving away the current air facility of Phnom Penh-Pochentong and build an greenfield airport some 30 to 40 km away from the capital. Construction would however not start before 2020 once the construction project is attributed. It is not officially highlighted but any future airport in Phnom Penh would also fall into the hands of China, Cambodia’s real engine of its economy. For the best and the worst…