Sino-Cambodian joint venture changes lives for the better

By LIN SHUJUAN in Sihanoukville, Cambodia | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2023-07-04 07:18
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Workers learn how a production line operates at the newly built General Tire Technology (Cambodia) plant. LIN SHUJUAN/CHINA DAILY

Hong Vanak, an economics researcher at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, was quoted by The Phom Penh Post as saying the factory is a strong and long-term project that will boost Cambodia's economic growth.

"Once the company is fully operational, there will definitely be a demand for manpower that will directly help the Cambodian economy," he said.

Chen Jiangang, president of SSEZ Co, said that as Cambodia's largest industrial park, both in terms of size and occupancy, the SSEZ has become a pillar of Sino-Cambodian cooperation.

While China's industrialization has entered a stage of maturity, with numerous competitive industries and strong production capabilities, Cambodia has been actively promoting its own industrialization, as seen in the Cambodia Industrial Development Policy 2015-25, Chen added.

"The SSEZ has encouraged Chinese companies to effectively address the needs of Cambodia's economic growth, creating a mutually beneficial relationship for the two countries under the Belt and Road Initiative," Cao said.

He added that the SSEZ will constantly strive to improve its infrastructure to support the operations of large-scale enterprises such as the tire factory. He said a thermal power station has been built in the area to provide greater energy support for heavy industries, and construction of the zone's second phase is underway.

"When the SSEZ is fully complete, it is expected to host up to 300 companies and employ 80,000 to 100,000 people," Chen said.

Boon for locals

Lin Yada is one of those now living a better life as a result of the SSEZ.

The Cambodian national said she used to live with her parents and siblings in a tiny home near the zone, but her quality of life started to improve after she joined a garment factory in the SSEZ in 2012.

After being trained at the factory, Lin quickly rose to become a team leader on the cutting line, and she now manages 45 employees in two teams. Her monthly salary has risen from about $100 to nearly $600, which is close to triple the local average. This has allowed Lin to build her own home and live in much improved surroundings.

Her two sisters and their husbands also found work in the SSEZ, further improving the family's financial situation.

Lin said working in the zone has given her a secure job. The SSEZ also offers a bright future, not only for herself but for her children, who now study at a local primary school.

Xiao, from Hodo Group, said establishing the SSEZ has had a profound impact on social stability, adding that he used to see numerous children playing outdoors in the past, as many families could not afford to send them to school.

Cao said enterprises at the industrial park used to launch a program to encourage every Chinese worker to donate $100, enough to cover a local child's annual tuition fees.

"The program is no longer running because most locals, who have found jobs in the zone, are now able to provide for their children's education," Cao added.

Many parents encourage their children to learn Chinese, Cao said.

Lin is fluent in the language after spending much of her spare time learning it from her Chinese colleagues. "Proficiency in Chinese guarantees a good job here," she said.

The zone has not only brought more job opportunities for locals, it has created business opportunities for them.

Ouk Pearith, who comes from a city north of Preah Sihanouk province, has run a grocery store next to the SSEZ since 2020.

He said business has been so brisk that he had to recruit his relatives to help run the store, which sees sales of up to $2,000 every day. The additional income has enabled him to buy a car and plot of land, on which he has built a large home that has spare rooms for rent.

Ouk's store is located on Pou Thoeung street in the center of Bet Trang, the most populated area of Sihanoukville. Tens of thousands of workers, some from other parts of Cambodia, now live and work in the area.

Banteay Chhmar, Bet Trang town head, said most locals now commute on motorcycles, which were previously considered a luxury. "It's no longer a surprise to see a family owning two or even three motorcycles," he said.

For Ouk, the SSEZ has opened a new chapter in his life.

"Such a life was unimaginable before the zone was launched," the farmer turned businessman said. "The industrial park has brought new opportunities for us."

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