The Preah Sihanouk Provincial Administration welcomed a joint statement by China and Cambodia that said they will examine the feasibility of developing an “Industrial and Technological Corridor” to achieve the development vision of the province as a “Model Multi-Purpose Special Economic Zone” (SEZ).

The joint statement noted that the construction of the Sihanoukville SEZ has been a prominent project and that the Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville Expressway has also helped to attract more Chinese enterprises with the potential to increase investment in Cambodia.

The two governments said they will examine the possibility of cooperation in the field of transport infrastructure, power grid, fiber optic network, warehousing and logistics to enhance the integration of a diversified Cambodia-China production capacity in the SEZ.

While visiting Malaysia, Preah Sihanouk provincial deputy governor Long Dimanche said his mission to Malaysia is also within the framework of the master plan to orient Preah Sihanouk province’s development to focus on the SEZ.

He added that the master plan prepared by the team at the Urban Planning Design Institute of Shenzhen (UPDIS) is part of the larger ambitions of the Cambodian government which has a goal of turning Preah Sihanouk into a new pole of development in the Kingdom.

Planned upgrades include making Sihanoukville a “smart city” with the use of modern technology and a green city as well as a vibrant commercial, service and logistics centre for ASEAN to connect Cambodia’s production and supply chains to the region and the world.

“The political support between the two leaders, who have a long-standing ironclad friendship, will help develop our province towards the goal we want to achieve. Preah Sihanouk is the second-largest economic hub [in Cambodia] and this requires proper planning, so this economic stimulus and investment in the tourism industry is the starting point, which has deep and meaningful support,” he said.

Dimanche said that the SEZ is a model for the successful implementation of China’s “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI), with both Cambodia and China benefiting from the development policy.

Ky Sereyvath, an economics researcher at the Royal Academy of Cambodia and director of its China Studies Centre, said the Preah Sihanouk SEZ is developing along similar lines to that of Busan in South Korea.

“What the government has developed is a master plan to make it a potential area to promote as a special coastal trade and economic zone, which is a convenient and centralised area for commercial trade, finance and tourism. I believe the master plan also includes a clear risk study, especially on environmental issues … to avoid unsustainable development,” he said.

At a meeting between Prime Minister Hun Sen and China’s Premier Li Keqiang at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on February 10, Keqiang said the two sides need to develop Cambodia’s production capacity, strengthen strategic cooperation and achieve synchronization between the “Belt and Road Initiative” and the Cambodia’s “Rectangular Strategy” by developing Preah Sihanouk’s SEZ.

The master plan for the development of the SEZ in the port city of Sihanoukville aims to turn the province into a national gateway and an engine for promoting development with a focus on strategic scope, such as by becoming an industrial centre and logistics hub for the ASEAN region as well as a regional finance and business centre and a national centre for science, technology and innovation.