Chinese property hunters zero in on Siem Reap

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Tourists visit Angkor Wat temple near Siem Reap. Heng Chivoan

Siem Reap has started to appear on the radar of Chinese investors, which is helping to push land prices up in the provincial capital.

Chinese investors have trained their eyes on Siem Reap, the Kingdom’s top tourist destination, and are snapping up properties for development. But they have yet to complete any major projects in the provincial capital, according to local real estate experts.

Chao Sengthai, CEO of Siem Reap-based real estate firm Goal Property Service, said Chinese investors are buying up land in Siem Reap city and province, but have not developed it.

“I’ve heard of Chinese investments, but from my observation, they have only bought the land and have not built anything on it yet,” he said, adding that investment was expected to follow announcements of a new Chinese-built airport and rumours of a planned Chinatown project.

In October 2016, the government signed a deal with Chinese state-run Yunnan Investment Holdings Ltd (YIHL) to build a new $880 million international airport for Siem Reap about 50 kilometres outside the provincial capital in Sonikum district.

According to Sengthai, Chinese investors are buying properties near the site of the future airport. They are also partnering with local investors to buy land and divide it into smaller plots in Bakong commune, possibly with the intention of creating a small Chinatown there.

Sengthai said land prices in these areas have spiked. He said land along the main roads is now selling for up to $1,000 per square metre, while plots along smaller roads are fetching $500 to $600 per square metre. By comparison, prime land in central Siem Reap city is selling for $1,000 to $1,500 per square metre, and twice that amount on the city’s famed Pub Street.

Noun Rithy, CEO of Khmer Foundation Appraisal, said he has seen a gradual increase in interest from Chinese property investors, who are purchasing plots for commercial and industrial projects near the site of the new airport.

“With more Chinese tourists visiting Siem Reap, commercial activities and the establishment of new commercial zones by Chinese investors will increase in the future,” he said.

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Siem Reap’s provincial department of land management. Moeun Nhean

Cheng Kheng, head of the advisory board of Huttons CPL, said that while the amount of Chinese investors buying property in Siem Reap pales by comparison to the level of development seen in Sihanoukville. Yet it has still been enough to help push prices up by 15 percent to 20 percent this year.

“Land prices are currently increasing in the suburban areas and especially near Siem Reap’s new airport project,” he said.

Seang Nam, a Siem Reap member of the National Assembly, confirmed that a private company had proposed building a Chinatown in Siem Reap, but said the project has since been abandoned.

“The company has already run away,” he said. “We don’t know where they ran to, and the project has been abandoned since.”

That, however, has not slowed interest in the land near the proposed project, he added.