New Delhi: China has recently leased vast tracts of land along the coast of the Koh Kong province of Cambodia to turn into a seaside resort. An area of 45,000 hectares — 20 per cent of the coastline — has been leased for 40 years for a paltry annual rent of US $1 million.
A Chinese private company called Union Development Group (UDG) is undertaking the project, named the Dara Sakor Seashore Resort Long Term Project.
However, there has also been increased military cooperation between Beijing and Phnom Penh, and the US has raised concerns, with Vice-President Mike Pence writing to Cambodian PM Hun Sen that these facilities could be put to military use.
Paul Chambers, professor of international affairs at the Naresuan University in Thailand, has claimed that senior Cambodian officials privately admitted that Hun Sen was considering approving a Chinese naval base at Kiri Sakor.
Hun Sen has claimed there are no foreign troops on Cambodian soil, but China has been accused of using debt traps to get its way. And according to satellite imagery accessed by ThePrint, there is a real possibility of the resort project currently under construction turning into a Chinese military base.
Dara Sakor seashore resort
The massive resort constructed by UDG at Dara Sakor seems much larger than tourism requirements in this part of the world.
However, the Chinese tourism directorate is allegedly trying to show a very high tourist rate by subsidising travel and stay at this resort for its citizens.
Two small piers for tourist boats/small cruises have also been observed on satellite images. A large 18-hole golf course can be seen right in front of the main building.
Sihanoukville Casino Boom
The sleepy town of Sihanoukville has suddenly woken up to the Chinese hotel industry in last three years. The entire coastline facing the Gulf of Thailand is booming with Chinese highrise hotels and resorts.
Residents are reportedly feeling the pinch as the hotel and casino industry is providing job opportunities only to Chinese-origin or Chinese-speaking people.
Deep sea port
Chinese company Guangxi Beibu Gulf International Port Group is constructing a deep sea port at Krong Kampot, in conjunction with Cambodian firm Try Pheap Group.
The port, according to Chinese representatives, would fulfil all Cambodian requirements of deep sea port facilities.
Satellite images indicate that the new port will have a large container terminal almost 5 km in length, with an oil terminal and a cruise terminal on either side. A number of Chinese dredgers have been observed working feverishly in this area.
Chinese and local news media outlets are abuzz with news of self-inflated property rates and future prospects.
The same project had been languishing due to various reasons and has picked up the pace only after 2017, when China’s People’s Liberation Army supposedly showed interest in it.
A smaller, unknown port is being constructed about 10 km north of the Dara resort. Satellite images show Chinese construction signatures.
The new port has a pier of about 500m length, and a pier/breakwater of almost 900m. The area near the pier has been cleared for construction of possible support buildings.
This port would be able to host all kinds of ships, including naval ships.
A large ‘international airport’ with a single airstrip is under construction at Dara Sakor, with a runway length of 3,200m and a width of more than 50m.
The size of the runway suggests that not only large civil aircraft, but also large military aircraft can land and take off from it.
The airport is barely 10 km from the main resort building.