A Phnom Penh developer hopes to bring $200 million in infrastructure before investing in a resort on the island of Koh Rong, one of Sihanoukville's poorest administrative areas, which is currently cut off from the mainland and lacking many services.
The Phnom Penh company Royal Group has signed a 99-year lease agreement with the government to develop Koh Rong, with a total expected budget of $2 billion.
Jacov Montross, business and finance manager of Royal Group, said the company plans to spend as much as $200 million on road construction, sewage systems, air and sea ports, clean water, electric power and village infrastructure.
"Before any hotels or casinos or that kind of thing is put on the island, the infrastructure needs to be put on the island first," he said. "We would like to see the infrastructure start to go on the island within the next six months."
Currently, only a handful of tourists visit the remote island each day.
Montross said infrastructure development could take up to 20 years to finish, after which Royal Group plans dozens of hotels and casinos, a golf course and an airport large enough to handle Boeing 737s and direct flights from China, Japan and India.
A first-class hospital will need to be built for tourists, and islanders could be trained in hospitality and tourism. In all, the project could employ 120,000 people.
Duch Sokhom, chief of Koh Rong commune, implored the employment of the island's many fishermen, who are facing "devastating" shortages of marine life.
Montross said priority would be given to the islanders, especially for infrastructure construction. Better jobs would be available in the future, he said, but people must be trained.
Sok Phon, chief of cabinet for Sihanoukville, said that besides Koh Rong, other islands are being developed, such as Koh Puos and Koh Dekol. Sihanoukville administration encompasses the increasingly popular coastal town and 22 islands.
Royal Group is still looking for outside investors.
"Right now it is a dream," Montross said. "It is a dream that we would like to make into reality."