UPDATE: The Royal Government of Cambodia has refuted the allegations made in American media.
Encompassing 20% of Cambodia’s coastline, the China-backed Dara Sakor investment zone is unlike any other in the Southeast Asian nation.
By Philip Heijmans July 19, 2019
Along pristine Cambodian beaches, past parades of elephants in its largest national park, sits an area half the size of Singapore that is ringing alarm bells among military strategists in the U.S. and beyond.
Dara Sakor, a $3.8 billion China-backed investment zone encompassing 20% of Cambodia’s coastline, is unlike any other in the developing Southeast Asian nation. Controlled by a Chinese company with a 99-year lease, it features phased plans for an international airport, a deep-water seaport and industrial park along with a luxury resort complete with power stations, water treatment plants and medical facilities.
The size and scope of the plans for Dara Sakor have fanned U.S. concerns the resort could be part of a larger Chinese plan to base military assets in Cambodia, according to an official familiar with the situation. A naval presence there would further expand China’s strategic footprint into Southeast Asia, consolidating its hold over disputed territory in the South China Sea and waterways that carry trillions of dollars of trade.
It’s not the first time China’s presence in Cambodia has raised alarms with the Trump administration. Vice President Mike Pence last year wrote a letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen expressing fears that Cambodia might be planning to host Chinese equipment at another nearby location, the Ream Naval Base, which officials in Phnom Penh have repeatedly denied.