Cambodian Interior Minister Sar Kheng has created a task force to combat crime in the coastal province of Preah Sihanouk after a spate of incidents linked to the dramatic rise in the number of Chinese expatriates in the region.
Kheng told officials at a ceremony on Wednesday that more than 70,000 Chinese nationals who had arrived in the province had coincided with a steep rise in the murder rate, drug proliferation and pollution.
“Sihanouk province has yet to prepare itself... Thus, there are problems arising, such as murder, drug use, and environment and hygiene issues, which can be a concern ... where people, especially foreign visitors, like to enjoy and admire. If no attention is paid properly, the sea water will become unusable,” he said.
The task force will be comprised of police and immigration officials, as well as lawyers from the Interior Ministry.
Cambodia is balancing the desire for few-strings-attached Chinese investment with a backlash against the associated problems that mass Chinese immigration to towns like Sihanoukville has caused.
Some 16,000 Chinese tourists visited Cambodia over the past seven months, according to the Tourism Ministry.
Prime Minister Hun Sen has cultivated close ties with Beijing, Cambodia’s largest donor and investor, as relations with the west have soured over his human rights record.
Bilateral trade with China jumped to more than $5.8 billion in 2017, rising by a fifth from the previous year, according to a recent post on Hun Sen’s Facebook page.