Prime Minister Hun Manet has stated that Cambodia has no plans to relocate its capital, as several other regional nations have done, but instead will continue to future-proof Phnom Penh’s infrastructure so it can match the developmental needs of its growing population.

He raised the point as he presided over the February 19 groundbreaking of the Chak Angre Krom-Prek Pra Bridge, citing it as an excellent example of the seventh-mandate government’s plans to expand the city in a sustainable way.

Historically, he acknowledged that Cambodia has relocated its capital many times, but emphasised that there were no further plans to do so, as Myanmar has done, and Indonesia is planning to do.

“Certain countries had moved their capitals. Indonesia is currently preparing to relocate its capital from Jakarta to the Nusantara, on the island of Borneo. Jakarta is subsiding due to more and more water table losses, and the Indonesian president wants to redistribute economic activity throughout their many islands, while reducing both congestion and the population in Jakarta,” he said.

“Phnom Penh does not suffer from these issues, so we have no plans to move the capital,” he reiterated. 

He added that Myanmar moved its capital in 2005, from Yangon to Naypyidaw, a more central location to the north of the old capital, again, a problem that is not relevant to Phnom Penh.

Hong Vanak, an economist at the Royal Academy of Cambodia’s Institute of International Relations, believed there were several reasons for a capital city to be moved, but none of them affected the Kingdom’s current seat of government.

“Possible reasons for a move could include the land subsiding below sea level or a lack of suitable suburban land to expand into and reduce population density. These are not issues for Phnom Penh,” he said.

He supported the prime minister’s position, adding that there is no reason for a relocation of the capital. He explained that Phnom Penh occupies an excellent geographical position, with the Chaktomuk River linking it to the rest of the country. It has never been flooded by the ocean or rising river levels, so he believed it should be developed further.

“The government is paying close attention to making Phnom Penh a successful trade and tourism hub, with an excellent environment brought about by constant improvements. It also maintains public order,” he added.

He suggested that master plans that guarantee modern buildings, waste management systems and green spaces be prepared, to maintain the sustainability of the city. 

Yang Kim Eng, president of the People Centre for Development and Peace, agreed, saying that there will be no problems with further expansion of the capital, provided clear urbanisation plans are in place.

“We have to keep our city clean, as a good environment and pleasant atmosphere will attract tourism and raise living standards. Phnom Penh is a good location, with the Chaktomuk River as a major, sustainable water source, crucial to a city’s sustainability. In addition, the government is planning the Funan Techo Canal, which will make the transport of goods more efficient,” he added.

He suggested that the government beautify Phnom Penh further by planting more trees and creating public green spaces for recreational activities.

He believed that such spaces would relieve the stresses of hard-working people, contributing to both productivity and public health.