The Environmental Destruction and Mismanagement Caused by China’s Dara Sakor Project in Cambodia

The Dara Sakor Seashore Resort in Cambodia, a grandiose tourist city project owned by a Chinese firm, has had detrimental effects on the environment and local communities. The project, which includes an airport, deep-sea port, power stations, hospitals, casinos, and luxury villas, was conceived in secrecy and with minimal consultation. The Chinese companies involved provide little information about themselves, and some have dubious track records. The project has raised suspicions about China’s motives in the region. Meanwhile, the rapid development of Sihanoukville, fueled by Chinese demand for casinos, has led to a crime wave and an economic collapse during the COVID-19 pandemic. Critics warn that Dara Sakor may face similar problems and that China’s speculative and poorly planned investments could have severe consequences. The project, which encroaches on the Botum Sakor national park and has displaced thousands of people, has caused significant deforestation and loss of natural habitats. NGOs and environmental organizations have raised concerns about the lack of environmental impact assessments and the violation of Cambodian laws. The United States has imposed sanctions on the Chinese construction company involved in the project, citing human rights abuses and the potential military use of the new airport. The US is increasingly wary of Chinese-built infrastructure projects, which adhere to military standards and are part of China’s militarization strategy. The financial health of the Chinese companies involved, including the leading company CCCC, remains uncertain, raising further doubts about the project’s sustainability. Chinese tourists are now deterred from visiting Cambodia due to the presence of scam centers in Chinese investment zones. However, it is unlikely that the new Cambodian Prime Minister, Hun Manet, will change the rapacious model of development, given the entrenched interests in Cambodia’s ruling party. Environmental activists, despite facing imprisonment, continue to fight to protect Cambodia’s natural habitats for future generations.