Expats and locals in Sihanoukville suffering from Chinese invasion

Published:  20 Mar at 6 PM
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Expats in Sihanoukville welcome Cambodian investigation into Chinese invasion.

Expats still living in Sihanoukville are supporting the Cambodian government’s investigation into the statuses of the high number of Chinese nationals now taking over the city. When the influx of Chinese workers and investors began, local people were happy to sell their land to the incomers at high prices, but are now being pushed out of their homes and businesses as the city increasingly becomes Chinese. Over the last few years, Sihanoukville has been increasingly popular with expats retreating from neighbouring Thailand due to increasing living costs and the regular toughening of visa regulations and financial requirements. Many signed long-term rental agreements and others bought apartments or had homes built, with the beachside city fast becoming a favourite for expat retirees.

As the numbers of Chinese incomers and developers soared, the city’s stunning seascape became a mix of rubbish dumps, huge casinos and hotels claiming the beachfronts and denying access to locals. Small shops, restaurants and bars were bought out by Chinese entrepreneurs, with expats no longer popular as customers staging a mass exodus to other Cambodian beachside towns. Nowadays, it’s almost impossible for Cambodians to operate small businesses in the area and the city is crammed with Chinese labourers working on the building sites, the majority of whom don’t even have work permits let alone long-stay visas. Local residents are losing work to the incomers and are now complaining to the provincial government as a result.

Earlier this month, Cambodia’s Minister of the Interior launched a national working group to investigate the situation as a result of a meeting with the local governor. An initial plan to close a majority of the Chinese businesses was rejected due to the increasing closeness between the Chinese authorities and Cambodia’s pro-China leader Hun Sen. At the present time, China and Cambodia are best friends, with Chinese investment in the country soaring as a result, bringing with it what Cambodians and expats alike see as unscrupulous business practices and unsuitable behaviour as well as ruining the country’s formerly growing fame as a tourism and expatriate hub.

Last year, more than 210,000 Chinese were living in the country, with 78,000 living and working in Sihanoukville, but only 20.000 have legal work permits. Locals fear that, should the growth of Chinese businesses not be restrained, Cambodians will end up becoming labourers for the incomers as well as being forced to watch their country becoming a vassal state for China.
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