Expats in Cambodia fear Chinese colonisation

Published:  9 Nov at 6 PM
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Is Cambodia fast becoming a satellite of China?

Cambodia has long been a destination for expatriates keen on Southeast Asia but disenchanted with Thailand and not quite ready for rural Laos, but the increasing Chinese presence in popular destinations such as Sihanoukville is worrying the long-stay foreign community. Chinese investment has transformed the former premier seaside resort over the past two years, forcing many Cambodians and expats to leave for the as yet unspoiled cities of Kampot and Kep. Sihanoukville’s formerly pristine beaches are now fouled with sewage and rubbish, and the numerous casinos are legally operating online gambling websites aimed at China where gambling and casinos are illegal.

The majority of expats who moved from Thailand to Cambodia are retirees, attracted by the easier visa regulations and the more welcoming Cambodian citizens. In Sihanoukville, a few bought apartments and others rented villas, enjoying their laid-back lives in comparative peace and quiet. Rental contracts are now being illegally terminated or rents increased by a huge percentage, and residential properties are being bought up, torn down and replaced by commercial premises. Almost all of the colourful signs advertising restaurants and shops are now in Chinese, and locals say the town is owned by the Chinese.

All the above is a glaring demonstration of China’s deliberate domination of the country’s economy, with the Prime Minister encouraging ever more development and investment from its massive neighbour. The former Western aid packages linked to rights promotion and democracy are now no longer needed, and China makes no demands as to how their generous donations and investments are spent. However, critics claim the concessions to China’s demands are enabling its colonisation of the entire country, and Chinese tourists are fast replacing the traditional expatriate and Western model.

Western entrepreneurs who’ve started businesses in Sihanoukville are suffering from huge rent hikes and a slump in customer numbers, and locals who don’t own their land are leaving the town in droves. Expats are angry that Cambodians with families are being forced out as they have no means to fight the Chinese economic invasion. Resentment against the Chinese is at an all-time high and is expected to get worse, whilst expatriates across the border are wondering how long it will take before China sets it sights on Thailand.
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