PHNOM PENH —
Cambodia says it hopes to have road connectivity to Vietnam and Thailand by 2015.
The connection would be part of Asean integration, a process where Cambodia lags behind its neighbors.
Six countries of the Mekong River delta have worked toward linking by road since 1998, in an attempt to create three economic corridors. The “Southern Economic Corridor,” funded mainly by the Asian Development Bank, would come of the linkage of the three neighbors.
The project is “90 percent complete,” Peng Sovicheano, undersecretary of state for the Ministry of Transportation, said. A border checkpoint must be built in Svay Rieng province, he said, but “by 2015, all roads will be connected.”
Cambodia has received $680.5 million in aid from the ADB and other funders to build or renovate roads across 22 provinces, linking it to Vietnam, Thailand and Laos.
Some 2,000 kilometers of roads have been built, said Shihiru Date, senior transport specialist for the ADB. More than half of that has been in Cambodia.
This will increase efficiency and reduce travel times, bolstering the flow of investment and goods in the country, he said.
However, there is more to be done, he said. To make the region a true economic hub, more infrastructure must be in place, including rail systems, clean water, electricity and other facilities, he said.
Chheang Vannarith, a lecturer at the University of Leeds, in London, said road connectivity in Cambodia is good, “but railway and water connectivity are still an issue.” No railway connects Cambodia to Thailand or Vietnam, he said.
And it remains expensive to move goods. According to the ADB, to move a ton of goods 100 kilometers in Cambodia costs between $9 and $13. It’s only about $6 for the same transportation in Thailand and $7 in Vietnam. Experts say the road connection can reduce this gap.