Cambodia to begin work on Funan Techo canal in August: PM

By AFP, Reuters   May 30, 2024 | 01:50 am PT
Cambodia to begin work on Funan Techo canal in August: PM
Floating houses on the Mekong River section near Phnom Penh, Cambodia, February 2021. Photo by Reuters
Cambodia will start work on a US$1.7-billion canal linking the capital Phnom Penh to the sea in August, Prime Minister Hun Manet said Thursday.

Hun Manet said the Funan Techo canal would mostly be funded by Cambodians and that the government is in talks with a Chinese company for further investment.

"We will do it now, we can't wait for anybody any longer," Hun Manet said in a speech on Thursday.

The waterway is part of Beijing's huge Belt and Road Initiative, a massive infrastructure scheme across Asia, but Hun Manet insisted it will only serve Cambodia.

"(We) do it within the Cambodian territory for the Cambodian people and for the interest of Cambodia," he said.

"We will have a groundbreaking ceremony this August."

The canal -- 180 kilometers (110-mile) long, 100 meters (328 feet) wide and 5.4 meters (17.7 feet) deep -- will connect Phnom Penh with Cambodian ports on the Gulf of Thailand.

Cambodia's Deputy PM Sun Chanthol told Reuters earlier this month that barges and ships with a 3,000 deadweight tonnage can use the canal.

Currently, about 33% of cargo to and from Cambodia use Vietnamese ports for their global trade by sending them through the Mekong River, Sun Chanthol said, noting that with the expanded canal the goal is to reduce that to 10% - which would represent a 70% drop on current shipping volumes.

Vietnam's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has several times expressed hopes that Cambodia will fully share information on the canal project and perform detailed assessment on its impact on the water resources and the ecosystem in the area, ensuring the harmonized interests of riverine nations and managing the water resources of the Mekong River effectively and sustainably.

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