Cambodia: a peaceful seaside resort transformed into a new Macau by Beijing

Cambodge: une paisible station balnéaire transformée en nouveau Macao par Pékin

Relieved of $ 1,500 at Baccarat, Dong Qiang, industrial hong kong, leaving a room of games smoky casino Sihanoukville in Cambodia, become an eldorado for players and chinese investors that are eager to make a new Macau.

“I came here a few days for the fun of it”, he says, he relativised his loss.

It was the embarrassment of the choice: the port city of cambodia a little more than 100,000 inhabitants – a third of whom are Chinese today – has 50 casinos, opened by his compatriots.

Of such gaming establishments are prohibited in mainland China next door. Cambodia, where the regulations are lenient in terms of games and money laundering, has become a destination refuge.

Objective of chinese investors in Sihanoukville: replicate the model of Macao, which became the world capital of casinos, far ahead of Las Vegas in terms of turnover. And attract a maximum of tourists in this city of cambodia where to stay already tens of thousands of Chinese per year.

On the ground floor of the Oriental Pearl Casino, in the light of the garish neon lights and in a silence of cathedral, a dozen of compatriots Dong Qiang play at Niu-Niu, a game of cards very popular in China.

Others are chained to cigarettes and energy drinks offered by the house in front of slot machines 50 Dragons”.

Most casinos ‘have a secret room, dedicated to games online money”, which many Chinese people play from home colossal sums of money, ” says an employee interviewed by the AFP.

– A billion invested by Beijing –

China, the most powerful regional ally of cambodian Prime minister Hun Sen, has injected since 2016 a billion dollars in Sihanoukville, particularly in the context of its massive program of infrastructure of the “new silk roads”.

These investments have transformed the city into a huge construction site open to the sky, with dozens of resorts and towers under construction.

Beijing is aiming to do as an economic centre.

The port of Sihanoukville continues to grow. It has recently welcomed three war vessels, chinese, fuelling the rumours of setting up a military base in Beijing. The visit of cambodian Prime minister Hun Sen in the chinese capital this week has revived speculation about it.

Four special economic zones which already house more than a hundred chinese companies have been created, and a four-way linking Sihanoukville to Phnom Penh will be funded by China.

This influx of silver is skyrocketing the price.

“A plot of ground near the sea is sold for less than $ 500 per square metre, there are still two years, compared to more than 2,500 today,” notes Darren O’shaughnessy estate agency CBRE.

If this boom is benefiting some Cambodians have become millionaires by selling their land, it does not benefit the majority of them, some even being threatened with eviction.

“The Chinese have reclaimed 10 hectares of our land. We are asked again to leave, but we prefer to die than to move”, takes Boeun Kang, who lives in a tin shack near a huge resort complex chinese construction.

– Closed-Circuit –

The Chinese live and often work in a closed circuit. And small locally-owned businesses will disappear in favor of signs in mandarin.

NGOS are also concerned about the environmental consequences of this rapid development, accusing the hotels and construction sites discharge their waste into the sea.

But the local authorities want to be reassuring.

“The per capita GDP is spent 1,700 dollars in 2015 to more than 2,300 dollars in 2017,” says the AFP Yun Min, the governor of the province.

“The benefits are mutual. This is an opportunity that we cannot afford to let happen,” he adds, noting that Sihanoukville is “built in” model for Cambodia.

As for the insecurity problems involving chinese nationals, are relayed regularly in the local press and on social networks, “the situation is under control,” according to him.

Four special units have recently been deployed by the ministry of the Interior, is Chuon Narin, chief of the police of the province.

A reinforcement that is not of a nature to reassure Sok, employed in a hotel at the outskirts of the city. She prohibited her daughter from 15 years to approach the night of the casinos “out of fear of the alcohol, drugs and prostitution”.