Category Archives: Phnom Penh

Flooding in Phnom Penh Nears Emergency Level


By Ben Sokhean and Simon Henderson – September 30, 2013

Almost 8,000 families have now been evacuated to higher ground since severe flooding across the country began two weeks ago and two more children were confirmed to have drowned over the weekend bringing the nationwide death toll to at least 28, officials said.

In Phnom Penh, where floodwaters on Sunday were inching closer to emergency level, 161 families have been evacuated from Meanchey district since Friday with thousands still grappling with inundated homes and poor sanitation.

Kao Sareth, 65, prepares food in his flooded home in Phnom Penh's Meanchey district on Sunday. More than 160 families in Meanchey district have been evacuated from their homes since flooding hit Friday. (Siv Channa)

Kao Sareth, 65, prepares food in his flooded home in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district on Sunday. More than 160 families in Meanchey district have been evacuated from their homes since flooding hit Friday. (Siv Channa)

Keo Vy, deputy director of information at the National Committee for Disaster Management, said that the two young victims died on Saturday in Kompong Cham province, where thousands of families have been evacuated to higher ground.

“Two children died by drowning on Saturday in Kompong Cham. A 6-year-old boy drowned in Batheay district’s Sambour commune, and a 2-year-old girl also died by drowning in Kroch Chhmar district, Trea commune,” he said.

“At least 28 people have died due to flooding in the past two weeks including 16 children, which brings the total killed in floods to 41 so far this year,” Mr. Vy said.

Across the country, a total of 7,897 families have been evacuated, 62,036 houses have been flooded, and 73,616 families nationwide have been affected by the floodwaters, he said.

The Mekong on Sunday rose 14 centimeters at the Tonle Bassac-Chaktomuk water station on Phnom Penh’s riverside to reach 10.2 meters, just below the 10.5-meter emergency level.

Mr. Vy said authorities were concerned that the water levels would rise further in the coming days.

“We are worried about Phnom Penh now because on Saturday the water level reached 10.2 me­ters and may soon reach the emergency level,” he said.

Along the banks of the Tonle Bassac in Chbar Ampov II commune, families waded through muddy meter-high water that has inundated their homes since the river broke its banks last week. Some villagers have erected make­shift wooden walkways and children were using rubber ding­hies made from tire tubing to travel through the increasingly fetid floodwaters.

Though many have already been moved to a nearby safety area, hundreds more continue to cook, eat and sleep in corrugated huts waist-deep in water, leading to dangerous conditions for many young children in the area.

“The water is up to my stomach in my house and nobody has come to help me,” said Chea Narin, a 50-year-old community leader in the commune.

“Some people have no working toilets so they are using the water, and it has brought a really bad smell and my children have had diarrhea. It is hard to keep the children in the house all the time, so they play in the water but we are afraid they will drown like in other provinces,” he said.

Mr. Narin works at a timber yard across what used to be the road in front of his house, but the warehouse floor is under water and the timber is soaked through bringing work to a standstill.

“We need the Red Cross, NGOs or the authorities to help us because we cannot work so have no money to buy food or clean water—all the families here are affected,” he said.

Further upstream in Chraing Bak village, 32-year-old Yoeng Yeung, an ethnic Vietnamese construction worker, said that his house has been completely flooded for about a week and he was worried about his two children.

“Under my house the floodwater is 1.5 meters deep so it is really difficult—inside the house the floor is submerged so I can’t cook or use the toilet,” he said.

He gestured to his two young children who stood behind him on the small makeshift bridge and said that he was frightened that they will drown because they cannot swim.

“Neither the Cambodian Red Cross nor any NGOs have come to help us yet,” he said, adding that despite the floods he must still go to work, while his wife stays home to care for the children.

Yen Vuth, Chbar Ampov II commune chief, said that more than 60 families have been evacuated to a safety area in Doeum Sleng I village over the weekend with more than 1,000 families along the river were currently affected by the floods.

City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche said that more than 160 families had already been evacuated to higher ground in the capital’s Meanchey and Rus­sei Keo districts.

“Municipal authorities have received a directive from the government regarding flooding in the city and we are now preparing to provide the affected families in the areas with assistance.”

Stung Treng, Kratie, Kompong Thom, Kompong Cham, Kandal, Banteay Meanchey, Oddar Meanchey and Preah Vihear provinces have experienced the worst of the flooding over the past two weeks, but heavy rainfall from tropical storm Wutip, which made landfall in Laos from the South China Sea on Friday, has extended the reach of the flooding, with Phnom Penh and also Prey Veng province receiving new warnings.

Chann Tha, Prey Veng province’s director of administration, said that emergency level had been declared Sunday when floodwaters reached 7.5 meters.

“Seven districts in Prey Veng province have been affected now by flooding and we evacuated 295 families to higher ground on Saturday and Sunday, while 10,414 houses have been swamped by water,” he said.

Health officials across the country have expressed concern that the flooding could cause a health crisis as a shortage of clean water for drinking and washing is leading to outbreaks of diarrhea.

Cambodian Red Cross spokeswoman Men Neary Sopheak said Sunday that relief efforts nationwide were already underway, though she said she did not know when people living in flooded areas in Phnom Penh would receive assistance.

According to Ms. Sopheak, Queen Mother Norodom Moni­neath on Saturday donated $10,000 to the Red Cross to help with the ongoing relief effort.

Related Stories Two More Die in Flooding, Aid Response Slow in Phnom Penh

Mekong River Flooding Threatens Parts Of Phnom Penh


Screen Shot 2013-09-28 at 6.30.24 PM Screen Shot 2013-09-28 at 6.30.40 PM


By  and  – September 28, 2013

Phnom Penh will face flooding in certain areas in the coming days as the level of the Mekong River surpasses emergency level, while heavy rainfall from tropical storm Wutip, which made landfall in Laos from the South China Sea on Friday, prompted the government to release new flood warnings for 11 provinces.

Forty-eight families were evacuated from their homes in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district on Friday after floodwaters inundated their homes in Chbar Ampov II commune, municipal spokesman Long Dimanche said.

“Water from the river has started flowing into parts of Phnom Penh,” he said.

“Of course, we are concerned over flooding in Phnom Penh,” Mr. Dimanche said, adding that city officials have prepared sandbags to staunch floodwaters in low-lying areas of the city.

On Friday, the Mekong River reached 10.06 meters at the Tonle Bassac-Chaktomuk water station on the city’s riverfront, just below the emergency 10.50-meter level, stirring concerns of further flooding in three districts: Meanchey, Dangkao and Pur Senchey.

“We are ready to help evacuate and rescue Phnom Penh residents in three possible flooded districts,” Mr. Dimanche said.

The Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology said in a statement on Thursday that tropical storm Wutip would bring heavy rains between Saturday and Tues­day to most of the country, and coastal fisherman were advised to stay on land until Wednesday.

“The rainfall mentioned will cause Mekong River flooding again,” the ministry said in the statement, which also called on authorities in affected areas to respond to people’s needs in order to avoid loss of life.

The death of a mother and her two young children on Thursday brought to 39 the number of people killed so far by flooding, which has forced almost 6,000 families from their homes and flooded a further 30,000 residences in eight affected provinces: Stung Treng, Kratie, Kompong Thom, Kompong Cham, Kandal, Banteay Mean­chey, Oddar Meanchey and Preah Vihear.

In Ratanakkiri province, 24-year-old Srey Noy died along with her two sons, 2 and 4 years old, when the motorcycle on which they were traveling drove into a deep ditch that was submerged by flash floods in Kon Mon district’s Ta Ong commune. Three more people drowned Friday, two in Kratie and one in Kompong Cham, said Keo Vy, deputy director of the information department at the National Committee for Disaster Management.

In Kratie province, flooding from the Mekong River cut off access to some 30 km of National Route 73 between Chhlong district and Kratie City on Wednesday, and on Thurs­day, flooding closed off Road 371 between Chhlong and Kompong Cham province, said Sreng Sros, deputy director of the Kratie provincial department of public works and transportation. Both routes are under 30 cm of water. A 500-meter stretch of Road 377 in Kratie’s Sambor district has also been impassable since last weekend but motorists heading to the northeast can still travel between Kompong Cham and Kratie via National Route 7, Mr. Sros said.

Khoy Khunnhor, chief of cabinet of Preah Vihear province, said that the province declared an emergency on Friday when the Stung Sen River reached 11.76 meters, far above the emergency level of 10.50 meters.

“Three districts and the provincial capital in Preah Vihear province have been affected by flooding,” said Mr. Khunnhor, adding that hundreds of families have been evacuated to higher ground.

“We told the people near the river to be highly careful of flooding.”

Phnom Penh Protests, One Dead

More coverage here:


A protester lies dead on the entrance to the Monivong bridge after demonstrations turned violent in Phnom Penh after dark yesterday. Photo by SEBASTIAN STRANGIO

Protest takes dark turn

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Mon, 16 September 2013

At least one man was shot dead and four seriously injured Sunday night when clashes broke out between protesters and police at a Phnom Penh bridge on the first day of the opposition party’s mass demonstration.

The man, 29-year-old Mao Sok Chan, was shot through the forehead during the clash at the Kbal Thnal overpass.

“He was just working at his job as a newspaper binder and then was going home. And then I heard he was dead,” said his brother Mao Sok Meth. “He’s never been involved in a protest before.”

Four people were rushed to Calmette Hospital from local clinics with severe bullet injuries to their legs, eyes and neck, said Chan Soveth, senior investigator for Adhoc. More than 10 people were arrested, he said, and at least 10 people were injured.

At the hospital early Monday morning, a group of police followed the victims with the aim of further investigation, according to Soveth, who strongly condemned the incident.

“The demonstration organised by the CNRP is a peaceful demonstration – why are authorities using violence like this?”

Police, military police and Ministry of Interior officials could not be reached for comment or declined to discuss whether the incident had led to any fatalities.

At local clinics near the overpass, numerous people were brought in for treatment of injuries caused in the clash.

When riot police retreated and citizens were finally permitted to cross over the bridge after more than two hours, many walked with their hands held above their heads. A number of people broke into tears as they crossed the blood-spattered bridge.

The body of Sok Chan, meanwhile, remained on the scene for hours before police attempted to take it away. As they approached, supporters grew agitated and began clashing with authorities again, said Sok Chan’s brother-in-law, Noy Non Khen.

At about 12:45am, the group eventually allowed the body to be removed, but only by a UN car, Non Khen said.

Soveth said the body was brought to the Khmer-Soviet Friendship hospital.

Bloody blows

According to Military Police spokesman Kheng Tito, the clash began when a group of “opportunistic” protesters began tearing down barriers on the overpass at around 8pm. In response, military police threw a smoke bomb, which further incited tensions.

Protesters began cursing and throwing rocks at the police, who then fired AK-47s into the air at least half a dozen times.

But the incident was marked by immense police brutality. Police could be seen wielding tasers and kicking already-restrained men in the head. As they lay on their stomachs, police smashed them with batons.

Roads around the bridge were quickly sealed off and drivers searched and threatened by police, but the move did little to calm tensions. By the time police pulled out after 11pm, hundreds of them had been deployed to the scene.

“If they are good protesters, they wouldn’t be protesting [at night]. If someone is protesting at this time, they’re not a clean protester, so authorities have the right to crack down,” said Tito, who refused to answer questions regarding the death, injuries or arrests.

He later told the Post that while he could not comment on any reported deaths, the police had “evidence” to support their actions and denied the police had behaved improperly.

“You can have the film,” he said. “If you look, you can see the evidence, but I cannot tell a journalist.”

Brief history of violence

The incident was the second time violence broke out, marring an otherwise peaceful day of mass demonstrations organised by the CNRP.

At Sisowath Quay, police used water cannons and unloaded volleys of smoke canisters on approximately 100 protesters – some of whom had forcibly removed police barricades and dragged razor wire fences into the Tonle Sap river.

The protesters responded to the use of water cannons by hurling rocks, shoes and pieces of metal from the destroyed barricades at police, which led to about a dozen smoke canisters being fired by the authorities.

One young man was caught in the razor wire as police continued to spray water at him and was convulsing as he was rushed from the scene.

A first aid worker who treated the man said later that although water had entered his lungs, he was sent to hospital with no serious injuries.

Military police later confirmed that one police officer was also injured after getting hit in the head by a rock thrown by protesters.

The CNRP distanced itself from the violence, issuing a statement after the Sisowath Quay incident denouncing the aggression and stressing that their protest was both non-violent and confined to Freedom Park.

“A small group of opportunistic people caused panic by throwing the barbed wire barricades into the river, and shouting to provoke the public,” the statement reads.

“And activity by that opportunistic group which caused trouble and unrest outside of Freedom Park is not the responsibility of the CNRP. We would like to appeal to the authorities to enforce strict measures against that group of people.”

Around the capital and further afield, hundreds of police and military police patrolled key locations, blocking off dozens of roads with razor wire and checking identification of those trying to pass through.

Choun Sovann, Phnom Penh Municipal police chief, blamed the CNRP for yesterday’s early outbreak of violence, saying that anyone present would have witnessed how the protesters actions provoked authorities.

“Police put wire barricades here to protect the King…[as] where [people were gathering] is not far from the Royal Palace. City Hall already told the CNRP they were allowed to have a non-violent protest at Freedom Park, so why did this happen in front of Wat Ounalom?” he said.

Officials from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights arrived on the scene and met with Sovann in a nearby bar to negotiate. Moments later, opposition leader Sam Rainsy also arrived.
“I would like to appeal to this group of youth or any people to immediately stop violence… Stop and go home, it is enough,” Rainsy told the protesters.

A sunnier beginning

The incidences were a far cry from the festival-like atmosphere at Freedom Park yesterday morning. As the leaders entered Freedom Park following marches from the party’s two offices, cheers went up from at least 20,000 supporters gathered to witness the kick-off to the planned three-day-long protest.

Party leaders re-iterated calls for a credible investigation into election irregularities, with deputy president Kem Sokha using foreign embassy statements calling for an investigation as evidence the international community does not recognise the election results.
“The countries that are democratic, the countries that are just all over the world, none of these countries are writing to congratulate [the Cambodian People’s Party],” he said.

Rainsy, meanwhile, heavily criticised the National Election Committee and the Constitutional Council – the two legal bodies tasked with dealing with election complaints – as being under the ruling party’s thumb.
He also pledged that protests would continue until justice was found for voters.

Yesterday evening, following the incident at Sisowath Quay, Rainsy maintained that opposition protests would continue despite the isolated act of violence.

“We are strangers to this incident. We are not involved whatsoever. I went on the spot to condemn those who were involved in any violence, because this is contrary to our position of non-violence,” he told the Post.

“So it doesn’t change anything to our plan to hold a three-day protest.”

Although the Ministry of Interior said the CNRP would only be allowed to demonstrate from 6am – 6pm yesterday, at about 8:30 last night, thousands were settling in to stay the night at Freedom Park.

The opposition previously promised its supporters – many of whom have travelled from far-flung provinces – that the party would organise for them to stay overnight for the duration of protests.

“I am unconcerned [about danger]. I have come to join demonstrations to find justice. I decided to come and stay here for three nights,” Kuch Chantha, 61, from Prey Veng said.


Military Ready for ‘Disorder’ Olympic Stadium

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Mon, 19 August 2013

About 1,000 military police officers in riot gear were seen participating in drills outside the Olympic Stadium on Saturday morning as part of a training exercise that top officials have said was designed to prepare for mass demonstrations led by the opposition.

Armed with riot helmets, shields and batons, the officers formed neat lines next to rows of assault rifles before filing into the stadium for more than an hour during which intermittent speeches and vociferous group chanting could be heard.

Military equipment, including the weapons, were then packed away into a flat-bed truck as well as a military ambulance emblazoned with the names of its benefactors – Prime Minister Hun Sen and his wife, Cambodian Red Cross president Bun Rany.

The soldiers were then ferried away in a convoy of dozens of military police trucks.

Kheng Tito, spokesman for the National Military Police, confirmed yesterday that more than 1,000 officers had taken part in training exercises teaching them how to protect the country during a demonstration.

The exercise followed a flurry of recent army and military police movements in and around Phnom Penh that have led to rampant speculation the government is preparing to strongly crack down on any protest.

The government has maintained the opposition has the right to demonstrate. But violence will not be tolerated and CNRP leaders will be held to account for any public disorder.

“This is a preventative measure … so the military police can be prepared to crack down quickly if a demonstration turns into rioting, and to protect ordinary public activity,” Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said.

On Thursday, scores of tanks and armoured personnel carriers arrived in Sihanoukville.

Military police spokesman Tito added that military police units from around the country had been moved to the capital in anticipation of a protest announced by “one political party”.

“If there is really a mass protest as one party has promised, we are afraid that violence will break out, so we want to protect [everyone] and not allow anyone to become a victim.”

Along with military police stationed around Phnom Penh, dozens of officers have been placed at the site of the former Renakse Hotel, a colonial-era building opposite the Royal Palace that has remained fenced off in recent years.

The 7,000-square-metre property, originally owned by the Cambodian People’s Party and seized by the government while on lease to the Renakse’s proprietor, was sold in 2008 to a private developer that was supposed to turn the city icon into government housing.

However, Min Khin, the minister of cults and religions, who allegedly arranged the sale of the hotel, said yesterday that the land remains in CPP hands.

A few of the officers stationed on the hotel grounds told the Post yesterday they had been sent to the capital from Mondulkiri and Kratie provinces.

Dressed in casual clothes, the men said they were “waiting” there to protect public order.

“Normally, our military police stay in their camp, but we have deployed them in some places just to protect public security,” Tito said, adding officers were routinely sent to areas deemed “insecure”.

Mao Rainny, deputy military police commander in Kratie province, said that he did not know how many officers had been withdrawn from his province.


Tanks Pour Into Phnom Penh as Opposition Leader Returns


“Not to be used to plow the rice fields,” defense minister says


Tanks, armored personnel carriers and mounted rocket launchers Thursday were driven on massive trucks up Cambodia’s Highway 4 from the deep-water port of Sihanoukville towards Phnom Penh, adding to the tension that is gripping the capital.

Asked what the heavy weapons might be used for, Defense Minister Tea Banh was quoted as saying, apparently facetiously: “You don’t have to wonder, they will not be used to plow the rice fields. Instead, they will be used to protect the country, and crack down on anyone who tries to destroy the nation.”

There was speculation that the large shipment of military hardware could be a second part of an earlier contingent of similar weapons from a Black Sea port, possibly in Ukraine. China also recently sent the first batch of a dozen military helicopters, two of which were recently seen hovering over the capital.

The Phnom Penh government, which is closely allied with China, also recently accepted a consignment of 1,000 pistols and 50,000 rounds of ammunition, thought to be for the Phnom Penh constabulary, and which was construed as a ‘gift’ from the People’s Republic.

Such a ‘gift’ could not but revive memories of the 1989 Tiananmen massacre in Beijing in certain quarters in the lead-up to the 28th July elections here when thousands of young people took to the streets on motorcycles, waving flags bearing the rising sun logo of the Opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party headed by Sam Rainsy, a French trained international banker.

At a time when there was wrangling over whether or not there had been fraud in the counting of the recent Cambodian election vote on 28th July, Sam Rainy was in Boston attending his daughter’s wedding, returning today, eight days later.

The 64 year old opposition leader has in the past lamented that he had not spent nearly as much time with his immediate family as he should have, being involved so deeply in politics, and that he was making up for it now. He was criticized in some quarters for leaving for overseas so soon after the election, in which he was prevented from standing by the decision of Prime Minister Hun Sen and his ministers.

Sam Rainsy returned here early Friday to pursue his belief that the Rescue party had actually won the 28th July election by defeating the ruling Cambodian Peoples’ Party but that there had been fraud in the vote-counting. The opposition Thursday walked out of a complaint session of the National Election Committee, claiming the committee had been improperly investigating the issues of massive fraud. The election committee is believed by some to be in Hun Sen’s thrall. The committee has refused to permit the cross-checking of results with the original counts.

Although the Cambodia People’s Party and the election committee agree the ruling party won the elections with 68 seats to the CNRP’s 55, the opposition says its own counting showed it had won with a majority of 63 seats. In any case, the Rescue party won what many saw was a tremendous psychological victory given the barriers placed in its way by the ruling CPP.

I asked Sam Rainsy as he left the Rescue party HQ today what he thought about the arrival of all that military hardware, but received no response. However, another ranking opposition leader, Ms Soc Hua, expressed concern, saying: “I thought we were talking to the CPP about ballots, not about tanks.”

On whether Hun Sen and the ruling party could use such military hardware to suppress street demonstrations, not just in cross-border international issues, people remember the military putsch in 1997 during which the CPP seized complete control of the country, killing up to 80 persons, most of them members of the royalist party, sometimes after severe torture. The royalist party did not win a single seat in the recent election.

Meantime, Phnom Penh’s garment factories are operating at greatly reduced capacity as workers return home to the provinces by the thousands in response to the government’s decision to increase security after the opposition warned they plan to hold mass demonstrations against the election results.

Parents in the provinces, remembering the earlier CPP bloodshed, are putting pressure on textile workers to return to their villages in the meantime, saying the capital is unsafe. This would be in response to the government’s decision to increase security after the opposition warned they planned to hold such demonstrations against the election results — but reports that they would take place next Tuesday haven’t been borne out on the ground.

“Obviously this has the potential to seriously impact the garment industry,” said Ken Loo, secretary general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia.

On Thursday factories and the garment workers said in some cases almost 80 percent of workers had left their jobs to go back to the provinces, heeding their families’ warnings of social unrest if the opposition CNRP decides to hold threatened demonstrations.

Travelling by road from Bangkok in neighboring Thailand back to Phnom Penh, I noticed that the numbers of young women leaving the factories lining Highway 4 was far fewer than normal, and that the trucks employed to take them to their Phnom Penh lodgings were more than half empty.

Meanwhile, around the central market area of the city this morning there were rumors about the ‘Yuon,’ a derogative word for the Vietnamese, causing alarm.

The Vietnamese, who in history have occupied vast tracts of Cambodian land and off-shore islands have been regarded as ‘eaters of Cambodian soil,’ though they did save the Cambodian people in early 1979 when they invaded and drove most of the Khmer Rouge to the border with Thailand.

But rumors take on a life of their own. “The people fear the ‘Yuon’ most of all,” said one stallholder in the market. Sam Rainsy, in attacks on Vietnam for allegedly moving border marker posts, has used fear of the Vietnamese in their own campaign, against the advice of Western embassies.

At the same time, people here who know about Vietnam’s own current internal economic difficulties, which are impacting even their hitherto prosperous coffee industry, is causing the Hanoi government enough concern without it becoming more involved in Cambodia.”

Grand Plans for $80-Billion Capital City Fit for a Techo



A model displays part of the Hun Sen Commercial District for the proposed Samdech Techo Hun Sen Dragon City. (Phoeung Sophoan)


A model shows the 600-meter-tall tower that is intended to house Prime Minister Hun Sen’s headquarters if the proposed Samdech Techo Hun Sen Dragon City is constructed. (Phoeung Sophoan)

If Phoeung Sophoan has his way, Phnom Penh’s days as Cambodia’s capital city are numbered.

A secretary of state at the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, Mr. Sophoan has big plans for a new 35,000-hectare capital city north of Phnom Penh called “Samdech Techo Hun Sen Dragon City.”

Mr. Sophoan claims the project has the nod from Prime Minister Hun Sen, and all he needs now is $80 billion to build it.

“If we study the history of any country, after you have great progress and then stability, you must have a new city,” Mr. Sophoan explained at his office on Tuesday.

He said that Dragon City would provide Mr. Hun Sen the chance to place his mark on the country like only the nation’s Angkorian kings have done.

“In the 12th century, we had Suryavaraman II who built Ang­kor Wat,” Mr. Sophoan said.

“When we go to Angkor Thom, we know this is the city of Jayavarman VII, and when we go to the Bakheng Temple, we know this is the city of Yasovarman I.”

“Now we are in the Samdech Hun Sen period—when we see this city, we will know this is the project of Samdech Hun Sen, the Dragon City,” the secretary of state said.

The mammoth city—containing hundreds of buildings and high rises designed in a sort of eclectic neo-Angkorian meets sci-fi movie style—would be strictly zoned into residential, commercial, cultural, educational and tourist segments, which would be laid out to resemble the face of a dragon.

“When you fly into Cambodia, you will see the lights like the head of a Naga, and you will know you are in Cambodia,” Mr. Sophoan explained.

With the borders of the new capital beginning just beyond Phnom Penh’s northern fringes—where the paths of the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers divert—Mr. Sophoan’s city would end northwest of Udong, the last capital before King Norodom moved his court to Phnom Penh almost 150 years ago.

At the center of Dragon City, as its defining feature, will stand a 600-meter tall building, which would be the world’s second tallest if it is ever built.

At the apex of that heavens-piercing tower, Mr. Sophoan explained, will be Mr. Hun Sen’s headquarters, which the secretary of state has tentatively titled “Samdech Akeak Moha Senabakte Techor Hun Sen’s Imperial Residential.”

“[The building] will be 600 meters tall, and this one will have the headquarters for Hun Sen to control all of our country and see all of our country,” Mr. Sophoan said, illustrating the range of the prime minister’s lofty view with a map with nine blue arrows pointing outward from Dragon City to the farther reaches of the country’s borders with Thailand, Laos and Vietnam.

Mr. Sophoan, who was educated in architecture in France and returned to Cambodia in 1989, said that he began planning Dragon City in 2010 and pushed ahead after receiving a letter that year from Mr. Hun Sen expressing his approval of the mega-project tribute city.

“At first I did not work too hard because I worried that Samdech Hun Sen did not like it,” Mr. Sophoan said. “Now Hun Sen says that he is very interested in it and told me to find investors to fund the project.”

Mr. Sophoan claimed that plans for the city are progressing, and that a prominent construction firm based in Shanghai was in negotiations to help him secure the tens of billions of dollars he needs from Chi­na’s central bank to create his vision.

Information about the Shanghai-based company could not be found online Thursday, and Lim Leang Se, deputy chief of the prime minister’s Cabinet, said Wednesday that he had never heard of Mr. Sophoan’s Hun Sen Dragon City.

Mr. Sophoan’s project is not secret though.

He appeared on an English-language news segment called “This is Cambodia” on CTN—owned by Royal Group chairman Kith Meng —in March last year, in which the presenter described Dragon City as “part of the government’s response to an ever-increasing population and the country’s fast-paced economic growth.”

In the segment, Mr. Sophoan said that if China were to support the project, it would be “an architectural and urban planning revolution” and improve Cambodia’s image internationally.

Some are skeptical.

Mr. Sophoan’s plans for the new satellite city would be incredibly hard to realize for political as well as logistical reasons, said Simon Springer, an associate professor of geography at Canada’s University of Victoria who has studied Cambodia’s development over the past decade.

“It’s likening Hun Sen to one of the Angkorian God-kings…. It’s intensively problematic,” Mr. Springer said.

“The whole plan is beyond ambitious. Even where the funding could come from remains to be seen. Presumably, it would come from China—and China has numerous developments of entire cities like this that are al­most entirely vacant,” he said.

Dragon City also would not be the first overly ambitious satellite city to fail.

About a half-dozen similar de­velopments—all much smaller in scope—have been proposed over the past decade, with none having yet been completed and many scaling back after discovering a lack of demand.

One of the most high-profile sat­ellites, the $1 billion CamKo City, broke ground in 2005 but ran into problems in 2011 amid accusations that its main South Korean investor was illicitly using deposited funds for business deals overseas.

Another satellite city—CPP Sena­tor Ly Yong Phat’s 800-hectare Garden City—broke ground in April and is set to include a convention center, a national sports stadium, two ports, a golf course and an industrial park.

Surprisingly, the land Mr. Sophoan has demarcated for Hun Sen Dragon City actually encompasses Mr. Yong Phat’s land.

Stephen Higgins, who said in 2009 when he was CEO of ANZ Royal Bank that ANZ would not loan money to people looking to purchase property in satellite cities around Phnom Penh, said Thursday that Mr. Sophoan’s project was yet another pie-in-the-sky idea for a new city.

“Hun Sen is a very intelligent guy and I can’t imagine he’d be associated with something like this,” Mr. Higgins said. “It is not feasible. It is beyond a fantasy, and I don’t think it will get past the stage of just being this fantasy in someone’s mind.”

“There’s no property development in the world that is worth $80 billion,” he added.

“To get $80 billion when the country’s GDP [gross domestic product] is $12-13 billion…the idea is laughable.”

In spite of the nay saying and doubters, Mr. Sophoan is confident Hun Sen Dragon City will be a reality one day.

“It will take just 18 years to build if I have the $80 billion.”

Lumhor PP Figure Ground

Check out this great drawing by Pagna over at Lumhor:



Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone


“A leading SEZ in the Kingdom of Cambodia and major industrial park in the vicinity of the capital: Phnom Penh.

Centrally located at the heart of the region’s east-west corridor, Phnom Penh SEZ offers your business a wide range of financial incentives – and your products easy and highly profitable access to the Japanese, US and European markets.”