Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association

Funan Techo Canal Construction Begins in August, Canal Residents Clueless on Compensation

Residents near the Prek Ta Hing stream located in Koh Thom district, Kandal province, which will be expanded when Funan Techo Canal is built, February 29, 2024. (CamboJA/Pring Samrang)
Residents near the Prek Ta Hing stream located in Koh Thom district, Kandal province, which will be expanded when Funan Techo Canal is built, February 29, 2024. (CamboJA/Pring Samrang)

Prime Minister Hun Manet made it clear on Thursday morning that the Funan Techo Canal is scheduled for construction in August 2024. Residents living along the canal project have yet to be informed about compensation packages.

Speaking at the Buddhist Cultural Centre of Cambodia in Preah Suramarit-Kossamak Kirirom National Park in Phnom Sruoch district, Kampong Speu province, Hun Manet said the canal construction should not be delayed anymore.

The project comes from the “spirit of nationalism” and a majority of Cambodian investment will be in the construction. 

“We will start construction in August,” he said. “This project is nationalistic and most Cambodians will participate in the construction, thus it’s very encouraging.” 

He added that Cambodia has been in talks with Chinese investment companies regarding the technical aspects and for the companies to invest some money to build the canal, but most of the investment will come from Cambodia. 

There were concerns raised by the Vietnamese regarding the impact of biodiversity as well as news reports that the project will serve the Chinese military but Hun Manet said it would not cater to Vietnamese or Chinese interests. Rather, the canal will be dug in Khmer territory for Khmer people. 

The $1.7 billion, which will be funded by China, stretches 180 kilometers from Phnom Penh to Kep province. It will run through Kandal, Takeo, Kampot and Kep provinces. 

With less than three months before construction starts, those along the canal project said they have yet to receive any information. 

Sophan May, who lives along Prek Takeo, the first section of the canal, in Kien Svay district, Kandal province told CamboJA News that she heard about the project from the news but no authorities have come to inform them. 

She wanted more details on the project, such as how it will affect her land and house.

“[I] want them [authorities] to come down quickly so that we can know [more] and find somewhere else to live,” Sophan said. “If they come late, it will be difficult for us to leave immediately.” 

Another resident, Heang Nang Eng, living along Prek Ta Hing stream, the second section of canal, echoed similar views, noting that the authorities have not shared any information as yet. 

Samraong Thom commune chief at Kien Svay district Chey Sam Oun said he already received some general information about the canal, but plans for further action have not yet reached the local authorities.

“People want to know, but we are also waiting because my side [the authorities] need to receive information first,” he said. 

He did not have any data on the number of people living along the Prek Takeo canal, such as those who live on state land, in reference to those by the river bank, and also others who lived on their own land. 

Residents near the Prek Ta Ek steam located in Sa’ang district, Kandal province might be affected by the Funan Techo Canal project, February 29, 2024. (CamboJA/Pring Samrang)

Government spokesperson Pen Bona declined to comment, referring the reporter to the Ministry of Public Works and Transport (MoPWT) instead.

Spokesperson of MoPWT Phan Rim said in relation to the impact on the people, it will be done through the government mechanism, with an inter-ministerial working group led by the Ministry of Economy and Finance and the participation of the local authorities. He did not respond to the question as to why there was no official notification to the citizens of the canal project. 

First Vice-Chairman of the Council for the Development of Cambodia Sun Chanthol did not respond. 

Political analyst Meas Nee said if people in the area have not been informed by the authorities, it means the impact study has not been conducted. 

“If they [authorities] conduct the impact study, they have to come down and ask people, and if people say they have not seen the authorities, it means that the digging of the canal is just a political message. But for the detailed impact study, I would say there was none conducted yet,” he said.  

He added that the problem with delayed information regarding big investments and their effect on people always happened. People are not informed in advance until the construction starts. Then they are forced to accept the different conditions of compensation. 

“I do not want to see this happen with the Funan Techo canal. The [project] has great history, but if the people are seriously affected, it is not fair,” he said, adding that he supported the canal development. However, “the government needs to spend time not just counting the number of affected families and giving them money, but also thinking about where people should live.”