China did not order Cambodia to build Funan Techo Canal

FRIDAY, MAY 03, 2024

Deputy Prime Minister Sun Chanthol, first vice president of the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC) has made it clear that China played no role in the Kingdom’s decision to initiate construction of the Funan Techo Canal project.

Vietnam has expressed some concerns about the project, suggesting it may have an environmental impact, while some critics have linked the project to geopolitical issues, such as China’s alleged expansionism.

While presenting the canal project to journalists on the morning of May 3, Chanthol explained that a Chinese company will invest in its construction, and that a groundbreaking ceremony is planned for December or early next year.

“The feasibility study lasted for 26 months. It didn’t just pop into our minds after a good night’s sleep, or at the orders of China. I can tell you that no Chinese officials had any advance notice of our plans. It was former Prime Minister Hun Sen who instructed us to study the project,” he told reporters.

“So do not suggest that someone ordered us to carry it out. No one instructed us besides Hun Sen, who told us to work with the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology, not with foreigners,” he added.

A graphic showcases the path of the canal, as well as the minimum environmental impact it is expected to have. Niem Chheng

According to Chanthol, the 180km project will take four years to complete at a cost of around $1.7 billion. It will employ up to 10,000 workers, mostly Cambodian, along with Chinese engineers.

The project will follow the path of an ancient canal which was abandoned more than one thousand years ago in the Funan era. 

Feasibility studies suggest that it will consume just 0.053 per cent of the flow of the Mekong River. The project will link the coastline at Kep province with the Bassac River, one of the Mekong’s tributaries.

Chanthol explained that the project will be a public-private partnership through Build, Operate, Transfer (BOT) investment by the company, so it does not require investment by Cambodia. 

This means the Kingdom will not need to borrow loans or fall into further debt, as some critics have accused, he added.

He added that apart from Vietnam, no other countries have expressed any concerns.

He suggested that some ASEAN countries may support the project, because it will make it easy to expand trade among them, though reducing the time and costs of transporting goods.

Niem Chheng

The Phnom Penh Post

Asia News Network