Cambodian canal project to begin in August: prime minister

The Funan Techo canal will be built mostly with Cambodian money but some Chinese investment is expected.
By RFA Staff
Cambodian canal project to begin in August: prime minister Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Manet poses for a photo, along with Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh, not pictured, in Hanoi, Vietnam on Monday, Dec.11, 2023.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Manet has said that the construction of the Funan Techo canal that has created a rift between the kingdom and neighboring Vietnam will begin in August, media reported.

Most of the US$1.7-billion funding for the project will come from Cambodian sources, but “we are negotiating with a Chinese investment company” for technology transfer and additional investment, Hun Manet was quoted as saying at a ceremony at a cultural center in Kampong Speu province.

Officially known as the Tonle Bassac Navigation Road and Logistics System Project, the 180-km (112 mile) canal will link the Mekong River, near the capital Phnom Penh, with the Gulf of Thailand and is expected to be built by a state-owned Chinese company under a build-operate-transfer scheme.

The Cambodian government said it would cut transport costs and help reduce dependence on Vietnam’s sea ports for its international trade. 

Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sun Chanthol has said the project will also bring great social and economic benefits to 1.6 million Cambodians living along the canal by providing better irrigation for farming

A woman sails her boat on Hau River in Vietnam's Mekong Delta's Can Tho city September 28, 2007. (Reuters)

But the project has created deep division between Vietnam and Cambodia, which have been staunch allies for decades, largely because of Vietnam’s concerns about its environmental and economic impact, especially a possible reduction in volumes of water flowing down the Mekong to its rice-growing delta region.

Vietnamese scientist Le Anh Tuan recently told a conference that the canal could halve the flow of the Mekong by the time it reaches his country, threatening rice crops in the delta, which is home to 17.4 million people.

Cambodia has dismissed those fears and declined requests for more studies of the impact of the project, which analysts say veteran leader Hun Sen, Hun Manet’s father, sees as one of his great legacies.

Hun Manet was quoted as saying that the canal will be built on Cambodian territory to serve the interests of the Cambodian people and work on it should begin without any delay.

The U.S. embassy in Phnom Penh has also voiced concern about the project, urging authorities to work closely with the intergovernmental Mekong River Commission, which was set up to jointly manage the development of the river’s lower basin.

Edited by Mike Firn.


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