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Infrastructure

A national road in Cambodia. Photo by Pat Scullion, taken on 2 April 2010 under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

A national road in Cambodia. Photo by Pat Scullion, taken on 2 April 2010 under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Infrastructure describes the built assets that allow a country to function, such as roads, railways, ports, airports, communication systems, electricity and drinking water distribution networks. The Ministry of Planning’s National Strategic Development Plan 2014-2018 (NSDP) outlines the country’s current infrastructure assets and strategy.1 The Ministry of Public Work and Transport is responsible for implementing the national policy concerning construction of all public works, including roads, bridges, ports, railways and waterways.

Roads

The total length of roads in Cambodia measured 47,263 km, 74% of which were rural, provincial roads. As of 2013, only 12,239 km of national and provincial roads were paved.2 The NSDP outlines the government’s plans to upgrade and repair an additional 5,150 km of rural roads by 2018.

The Ministry of Public Work and Transport is responsible for implementing the national policy concerning construction of all public works, including roads, bridges, ports, railways and waterways.

Several large developments are planned. It was reported in late 2015 that the Cambodian firm Global CAM Project Development Plc had signed a memorandum of understanding with Korea’s Green Eco Energy Co. to build a 275 km high-speed expressway between Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville. The deal is worth more than $536 million.3

Rail

Cambodia has two main railway lines—the northern track of 386 km connecting Phnom Penh with Poipet on the Thai border via Pursat and Battambang, and the southern line of 266 km from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville. Use of the rail system peaked in 1970,4 but then prolonged conflict and decades of neglect left it in a poor state. Rail services began again in the 1980s, but by 2008 passenger services had ended.

In 2006, a US$143 million rehabilitation project was launched by the Cambodian government with the support of a number of external funders. The southern line project was completed and opened to freight operations in August 2013.5 By early 2016 it was being used to transport fuel, coal, cement and container shipments, and passenger services began in 2016.6

However, resettlement problems,7 cost overruns, flooding and construction quality issues caused delays to the northern line work. In July 2015, the government allocated a further $33 million to complete repairs to the northern line by 2017, after project partners ADB and AusAID declined requests to provide more funding.8

Royal Railway currently holds a 30-year concession to operate Cambodia’s railways. 

The government has also expressed an intention of building further new rail networks and Thailand, Japan and China have all expressed interest in working on projects to expand rail services through Cambodia.9 

Waterways and ports

The length of waterways in Cambodia is about 1,750 km, of which around about 850 km are navigable in the dry season.10

Sihanoukville Autonomous Port (SAP) is the country’s only commercial and international deep seaport. State-owned, it is undergoing a substantial development due for completion in 2017. SAP covers 124 hectares.11 More than 3.8 million tons of cargo moved through the port in 2015, an increase of nearly 10% from the year before. Ship numbers coming through the port rose 17% year to year, and cruise ship visits rose from 25 to 36.12

However, it has been claimed that Cambodia’s seaport is the most expensive in Asia.13

The state-owned Phnom Penh Autonomous Port in Kien Svay district of Kandal province, 30 km from the Phnom Penh Port, is the country’s second-largest. In January 2013, the port opened a $28 million container terminal financed by the Chinese government. Garment and agriculture (especially rice) are the key exports loaded at the port, while construction materials, agricultural machinery, raw materials for the garment industry, and consumer goods are key imports.14

Both Sihanoukville Autonomous Port and Phnom Penh Autonomous Port experienced a slowdown in container traffic in 2016.15 At SAP, Cambodian exports accounted for more traffic than previous years, growing closer to the volume of import traffic.

 The Phnom Penh Port is the original river port in Phnom Penh city, 330 km from the sea. Ships loading here can serve international destinations such as Singapore. The small seaports at Koh Kong and Kampot are used by comparatively small vessels. River ports such as the one at Kampong Cham are used for domestic vessels only.

Air transport

Cambodia has three international airports, at Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville, although the latter has very few international flights. The airports are managed by Cambodia Airports, which is owned by the French company Vinci (70%) and the Malaysian-Cambodia joint venture, Muhibbah Masteron Cambodia (30%).

Substantial upgrading work is taking place, especially at Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, with $100 million being invested in new terminal buildings,16 some funded through a joint venture between two South Korean companies, Camco Airport Co and Lees A&A.17

Cambodia’s aviation market grew by 15.5% in 2015. Passenger numbers have grown in double digits for six consecutive years.18 The country’s airports together handled 6.2 million passengers in 2015, 3 million at Phnom Penh and 3.2 million at Siem Reap.19

Following the signing of an agreement between Cambodia and Japan, direct flights between the two countries began in 2016.20 

The State Secretariat of Civil Aviation is responsible for managing and developing Cambodia’s civil aviation.

Communications

Internet

Internet use in Cambodia grew 414% in 2014, but penetration still remains comparatively low at 25%,21 compared to the global internet penetration rate of 42%.22

A new submarine telecoms cable is due for completion in 2017. The cable, coming ashore in Sihanoukville, will connect Cambodia with Rayong in Thailand and Kuantan in Malaysia. The cable will increase capacity and strengthen exiting networks.23

The Ministry of Post and Telecommunication (MPT) in March 2016 signed a 25-year concession agreement with Cambodia Fiber Optic Cable Network (CFOCN) to build a landing station in Sihanoukville and lay an underwater fibre-optic cable to patch into the existing AAE-1 cable, one of the main high-speed data connections that already links China, Vietnam and Malaysia.24 The concession agreement is based on a build-own-operate-transfer model. CFOCN, a subsidiary of a Singapore-based group, already has 7,600 kilometres of fibre-optic cable in Cambodia.

Kan Channmeta, secretary of state at the Ministry, said that the government anticipated close to 80% the population using the internet by 2020.25

Telephone

The mobile subscriber market reached 21.2 million in 2016 and is regarded as mature and saturated.26 The number of fixed telephone lines in Cambodia is very small. Market penetration dropped from 2.3% in 2014 to 1.4% in 2016.27

The Telecommunications Regulator of Cambodia was set up under a royal decree of 2015 and sub-decree of 2016. Its main objectives are “to formulate the regulations, relating to the operation and provision of telecommunications network and services, in order to promote fair, efficient, and transparent competition”.28

Radio

There were 51 radio stations in Cambodia in 2013, and a 2010 survey found that 41 percent of Cambodian households had a radio.29

Television

According to the NSDP, there was one state-owned television station, seven provincial stations, 12 privately owned stations, and almost 100 cable television services in 2013. A 2010 survey found that 64 percent of Cambodian households had television.30

Electricity

Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh, consumes 90% of the country’s electricity. Expansion of power distribution lines to rural areas—home to approximately 80% of the population—is limited.31 As of 2013, only 22.5% of Cambodian households had access to electricity.32

In 2014, the Prime Minister announced a commitment to ensure “[All] Cambodian villages would have electricity by 2020, while 70% of households would have power by 2030″.33 Large projects expanding the distribution network are underway to meet the NSDP targets of adding more than 12,800 km of transmission lines to the network by 2018.34

Water

While there is potable water distribution in Phnom Penh and other cities, an estimated 4 million Cambodians do not have access to safe water.35 Arsenic contamination is a risk in the water supplies of an estimated 1,600 villages and in parts of Phnom Penh.36 NSDP 2014–2018 has targets for better access to improved drinking water for the rural population, from 44.2 percent in 2013 to 60 percent in 2018. In the capital, the Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority supplies water to about 280,800 households.37

Sanitation

An estimated 9 million people do not have access to adequate sanitation.38 This has very serious consequences. For example, more than 1,000 children die each year from diarrhea caused by poor sanitation and unclean water.[Ibid] The NSDP targeted an increase in access to sanitation in the rural population from 37.5 percent in 2013 to 60 percent in 2018.

Last updated: 28 February 2017

References

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