Cambodia-Vietnam railway Benefits Cambodia as well as ASEAN

By Sun Narin

Due to the fruitful economic relation and wanting to expand the business with other countries on the land way, Cambodia’s and Vietnam’s government has recently just agreed on the construction of a 257km railway, which will cost at least US$686 million, which does not include the resettlement compensation to residents who have to leave their homes to make way for the line, according to study from China. This rail will be beneficial for Cambodia as well as countries in ASEAN.

The Asian experts say that railway could bring huge economic benefits to Cambodia, especially in agriculture and mineral exploitation. Normally if we want to go from Bangkok to Ho Chi Minh City crossing the well-maintained Cambodian roads, we can go by bus on the road of some 750 kilometers taking less than 20 hours. But now the return of this train seems near. It will also connect Singapore with China going through the territories of Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Therefore, it will provide tremendous economic and tourist benefits to those countries.

According to the project, “It is part of the Singapore-Kunming railroad project, so it will be a key railroad for Cambodia to truck goods to regional and global markets, especially in the framework of ASEAN-China Free Trade Area.” The project is part of the ambitious Trans-Asian Railway Network that would connect the huge continent with Europe.

Vietnamese investment in Cambodia mainly focuses on the exploration of minerals, oil and gas, the construction of hydropower electric plants and power transmission lines, rubber plantations and developing transport infrastructure.

Mr Ly Borin, the director of the Railroad Department in the Ministry of Public Works and Transportation in Cambodia, said that this is the first time that Cambodia will have such as railway with Vietnam, which will be beneficial for the two country’s economy and tourism.

He said: “The main purpose is to link the rail from ASEAN to Europe. We are waiting for the final report from China and the decision from the government.” He said that all the countries in ASEAN are committed to making it happen; however, he said the time of starting construction is not clear. He told: “The rail and the trains will be more modern and faster than our present train.”

Bilateral cooperation between Cambodia and Vietnam has developed in many fields, with two-way trade reaching US$1.8 billion in 2010 and Vietnamese businesses investing about US$2 billion in Cambodia. There are a lot of Vietnamese businesses and people living in Cambodia today. Vietnamese products are sold throughout the markets. In 2009, Vietnam and Cambodia signed deals worth US$6 billion at a conference held in Ho Chi Minh City to promote Vietnamese investment in Cambodia.

The railway in the project of China will start in Kampong Speu Province’s Oudong District, pass by Kratie Province’s Snuol District and end at Viet Nam’s Loc Ninh District in the southern border province of Binh Phuoc. As a result, the people living on the development project will be affected. However, Mr Ly Borin said that Cambodia’s government has not studied the effects of the rail on the people’s living yet, but the government will provide them with fair compensation and replace them to a suitable area.

This rail will increase the tourism sector in Cambodia from other countries since it can replace the flight and it will be cheaper, according to the official from the Ministry of Tourism, adding that it will bring more tourists and businessmen from Vietnam to visit Cambodia and so do Cambodian people.

Cambodia’s Opposition Sam Rainsy Party’s spokesman, Mr Yim Sovann, said that the rail would be important for Cambodia’s people because it will reduce the price of transportation. However, he said that it would affect people’s land, house and business, which the government has to compensate people properly legally.

Under a scheme announced in 2008 to develop an intra-Asian railway, China has offered to contribute $500 million to build the Cambodia-Viet Nam stretch of the railway.

It will probably take about 30 months to complete the project. At present, the Asian Development Bank and the Australian government have provided $141 million in loans to Cambodia’s government to restore rail links, including the 254km southern line from the capital to Sihanoukville, and the 388 km north line from Phnom Penh to the border with Thailand.