Expats In Kampot Concerned About Chinese Military Intentions

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Published:  11 Jun at 6 PM
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Just as Cambodia becomes more popular as an expat destination, concerns over the possibility of a Chinese military base is causing genuine concern amongst foreign communities.

In spite of assurances from the Chinese Defence Minister, expats on the ground in various popular regions are putting two and two together and distrusting Chinese reassurances. Social media reports on a so-called Chinese-financed eco-tourism development in coastal Koh Kong province are suggesting it’s actually a military naval base in disguise.

It seems Washington takes this issue seriously, as the Vice President is said to have raised his suspicions during his visit to the region, with the usual Chinese denials impressing no-one. China is keen on constructing a new base on the southern flank of the South China Sea, and Kampot’s already functioning deep-sea port is being brought up as yet another suitable site, as is Sihanoukville’s similar facility. Over the past year, Sihanoukville has hosted three of China’s warships and the largest yet joint military exercise carried out by both Chinese and local forces was held in Kampot province two months ago.

The US government is warning the Cambodian leader seems happy with the developments, even should they lead to the permanent presence of Chinese military in Cambodia. Another cause for expatriates as well as international concern is a runway now being constructed in the remote province of Koh Kong, as satellite imagery shows it’s the double of China’s Spratly Island fighter, bomber and reconnaissance runways.

Recently, Cambodia has become a refuge for expatriates forced out of Thailand due to the ever-changing visa requirements and the feeling they’re no longer welcome. Many originally settled in Sihanoukville, making a hasty move to Kampot when the Chinese arrived en masse. Many members of the expat community in Kampot are increasingly concerned about their future anywhere in Cambodia, with the thought of a Chinese takeover enough to cause consideration of yet another move.

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