Cambodia plans to build one of world's biggest airports

PHNOM PENH • The Cambodian government has approved plans to build one of the world's largest airports in south-eastern Kandal province, although the key players have yet to work out the details.

The Phnom Penh Post on Monday reported the plans, citing a document from the Council of Ministers, dated Dec 21. The document approved an investment proposal from Cambodia Airport Investment to build a US$1.5 billion (S$2 billion), 2,600ha airport in Kandal province's Kandal Steung district, about 30km south of Phnom Penh.

Cambodia Airport Investment is a joint venture between local conglomerate Overseas Cambodia Investment Corporation (OCIC) and the Cambodian government's State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA), according to the document.

Last Thursday, the OCIC signed a "cooperation framework agreement" for a new Phnom Penh airport with the state-run China Development Bank.

A 2,600ha airport would be the ninth-largest airport in the world, putting it just behind Chicago O'Hare airport (2,610ha), and ahead of China's Beijing Capital International (2,330ha). The size of the current Phnom Penh International Airport is about 400ha.

According to the document, the OCIC will invest US$280 million, while unspecified "foreign banks" will provide US$1.1 billion in funding. The OCIC will own 90 per cent of the shares in the completed airport, with the rest going to the SSCA.

But the project is just getting off the ground, according to OCIC and government officials. Mr Sin Chansereyvutha, a spokesman for the SSCA, said last Sunday that there was no detailed plan or agreement, and the aviation authority had not even met the OCIC to discuss the project yet. "The project will need a long time (to materialise) because we need to negotiate on many criteria, on the frameworks of the agreement," said the spokesman.

He added that the government would also have to find a way to deal with Cambodia Airports, the company that currently holds a concession to operate Phnom Penh International Airport until 2040.

Cambodia Airports, which is majority-owned by France's Vinci Group, submitted plans to the government last year to expand both the Phnom Penh and Siem Reap airports to accommodate future growth in traffic, according to Mr Khek Norinda, the company's PR and communications director.

But expansion plans have been halted in the past by government officials, who have opted instead to build new airports, financed by Chinese banks, in both locations.

Mr Norinda declined to answer questions on Sunday about Cambodia Airports' concession agreement or about whether negotiations were ongoing between the company and the Cambodian government. It said in a statement only that "dialogue through a mutual respect of the agreement made between both parties is critical for the future development of the airports, their successes and the country's development".


Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 18, 2018, with the headline Cambodia plans to build one of world's biggest airports. Subscribe