Western expats in Siem Reap fleeing Chinese takeover

Published:  23 Jul at 6 PM
Want to get involved? Become a Featured Expat and take our interview.
Become a Local Expert and contribute articles.
Get in touch today!
Even before the Cambodian town of Siem Reap became an expat hub, tourists flocked to the nearby UNESCO World Heritage Site of Angkor Wat.

During the early days of the town’s tourism boom, a few long-staying expats had opened guest houses and hotels catering for the crowds arriving to stare in wonder at the imposing remnants of the site’s Khmer Buddhist temples and palaces. Pubs, bars and restaurants opened, mostly catering to foreign visitors, and long-stayers arrived after falling in love with the idea of living in the town. Pub Street became famous world-wide, and the town attracted more and more expats arriving for retirement. to open a business or just enjoy the laid-back lifestyle.

Over a decade or so, the town expanded due to its worldwide appeal and became a city in its own right, with the arrival of many more expats increasing the numbers year on year and forming a close, supportive community. Over the past six years or so, Siem Reap became more Westernised, with fast-food outlets taking over from local eateries and even a Gucci store. At that point, long-stayers started leaving, but no-one could have imagined the real threat was China’s incursion into Cambodia as part of its controversial Belt and Road initiative.

Sihanoukville was China’s first target, now a Chinese city in all but name, and the hordes with their casinos, brash Chinese-only hotels and massive piles of rubble and trash are now moving on to Kampot and Siem Reap. Nowadays, the expat exodus from the famous Temple Town is composed of expatriates with long-term businesses, philanthropic activities or jobs with organisations such as Medicine Sans Frontier, the World Wildlife Fund, the UN Childrens’ Fund and other NGOs. Other expats with small restaurant chains and startups employing many locals are now leaving after two or more decades in the town.

Chinese property investors are arriving as they did in Sihanoukville, staying in Chinese-owned hotels and only patronising Chinese-owned shops, bars and restaurants. Chinese media are now putting their own spin on the takeover of yet another famous expat-friendly Cambodian city, suggesting Siem Reap was fading fast as a tourist destination and wrongly crediting Chinese visitors with saving city businesses from bankruptcy. With Kampot now firmly in Chinese hands, Western expats now have nowhere in Cambodia to settle, although it’s not certain how many are still in the country. Perhaps Cambodians who treasure their history and heritage should study China’s invasion of Tibet in the 1950s and leave whilst the going’s still good, as have so many Westerners.
Like this news?

Comments » No published comments just yet for this article...

Feel free to have your say on this item. Go on... be the first!

Tell us Your Thoughts On This Piece:

Your Name *
Email * (not published, needs verification one time only)
  • Facebook
  • Follow us on Twitter
  • RSS feed
  • Facebook

Latest Headlines

News Links

News Archive