Cambodia inaugurated largest airport in Cambodia funded by China, aiming to enhance access to Angkor Wat, a renowned tourist site in Siem Reap province. The project seeks to improve connectivity to the historic Angkor Wat temple complex, a key attraction in the country.
The Siem Reap-Angkor International Airport spans 700 hectares of land, situated 40 kilometers east of Angkor Wat, featuring a 3,600-meter-long runway. It’s designed to accommodate 7 million passengers yearly, with future expansions aiming for 12 million by 2040. Commencing operations on October 16, the inaugural flight arrived from Thailand, replacing the former airport located approximately 5 kilometers from the iconic tourist destination.
The inauguration on Thursday was led by Prime Minister Hun Manet, along with Chinese Ambassador Wang Wentian, Governor Wang Yubo of China’s Yunnan province, and various other officials in attendance.
Hun Manet mentioned at the ceremony that the previous airport’s proximity to the Angkor temples raised concerns about potential damage to their foundations due to vibrations caused by passing flights.
Tourism plays a pivotal role in Cambodia’s economy. In the initial eight months of 2023, the country welcomed around 3.5 million international tourists. Comparatively, in 2019, pre-pandemic, Cambodia hosted approximately 6.6 million foreign visitors, according to the Ministry of Tourism.
Hun Manet expressed hope that 2024 would mark the start of a rejuvenation for Siem Reap’s tourism sector. Cambodia heavily relies on China as a crucial ally and supporter, evident through extensive Chinese-funded projects, hotels, casinos in Phnom Penh, and across the nation. Chinese state banks have financed significant infrastructure like airports and roads through loans, contributing to over 40% of Cambodia’s $10 billion foreign debt.
Funding for the Largest Airport in Cambodia
The construction of the new airport, totaling around $1.1 billion, was funded by Angkor International Airport (Cambodia) Co., Ltd., a subsidiary of China’s Yunnan Investment Holdings Ltd. This was executed through a 55-year build-operate-transfer agreement.
Yunnan governor Wang Yubo, representing the Chinese government, emphasized that the airport’s inauguration symbolizes the strong camaraderie between both nations’ citizens and serves to foster enhanced economic connections between them.
This project is part of a big plan by China where they build things like roads and power plants in other countries using loans from Chinese banks. It’s called the Belt and Road Initiative, and it’s meant to help China trade more and grow its economy by creating better connections with other countries, kind of like modern-day versions of the old trading routes from China to Europe.
Another Chinese-funded Airport after the New Largest Airport in Cambodia
A new airport, funded by China at a cost of $1.5 billion, is under construction to serve Cambodia’s capital. Named the Techo International Airport, it spans 2,600 hectares and is expected to be finished by 2024.