Sihanoukville now a burst bubble as China pulls out

Published:  11 Nov at 6 PM
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Tagged: UK, China, England
Cambodia’s former peaceful holiday town of Sihanoukville may well have been wrecked by Chinese casinos and crooks, but the party’s now over.

One a quiet coastal resort much loved by Cambodians as well as by a small community of Western expats, Sihanoukville swiftly became a hub for Chinese on- and offline casinos, Chinese triad gangs, street crime, murder, kidnapping and violence. Unchecked development, gross violations of environmental protection laws and poor quality construction wrecked the town, locals were forced out in favour of Chinese businesses, and expats beat a hasty retreat to Kampot or Kep. Some 300,000 Chinese workers arrived, a Chinese consulate was set up and the Cambodian government turned a blind eye to the entire disastrous procedure.

Relief finally arrived when nature took a hand and a partly-finished new casino collapsed into a heap of rubble, killing 28 workers and causing the Chinese developer and five others to be arrested by Cambodian police, thus drawing China’s attention to the town. Shortly after the arrests, the rainy season began and resulted in Sihanoukville becoming a flood zone as no allowance had been made for the draining of torrential downpours. Investigation showed not one of the massive casino buildings nor the concrete covering most of the town’s land had taken the weather into consideration. Raw sewage ran in the streets and into the sea, and China was forced to take swift action to preserve its billions of investment.

Organised raids began, with arrests and deportation of major criminal gangs and the closure of the casino industry both in Sihanoukville and the rest of Cambodia, although triad gangs continued to run online gambling sites. Finally, China got the big picture as regards their massive investments in the country and threatened to pull out in entirety, with the threat forcing the Cambodian authorities to ban online gaming and refuse to extend any still existing casino licenses once the December 31st deadline was reached. During the two weeks following the announcement, 120,000 Chinese expats fled the country, leaving high rents, crumbling casino buildings, a few triads and the ugly remnants of the burst bubble which is now all that’s left of the once much-loved coastal resort.
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