Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday lauded engineers for constructing the first Cambodian-built concrete bridge across the Mekong River in Kampong Cham province.
Speaking at an inauguration ceremony for the bridge, Mr Hun Sen said the bridge was the first-ever concrete bridge built across a river by Cambodian engineers solely using the national budget.
“This is a new achievement,” he said, noting that in the past, Cambodia was only capable of building iron Bailey bridges. “I would like to announce that Cambodia has the capacity to build all river-crossing bridges in the Kingdom by itself.”
Mr Hun Sen said he was proud of the achievement and of military officials from the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces’ Engineering Unit, which led the project that began in 2011.
According to a Defence Ministry report, construction of the $13 million bridge began in 2011 in partnership with the Public Works and Transportation Ministry.
The bridge, named Koh Pen, is 779 metres in length and 9.2 metres in width and links Kampong Cham city to Koh Mith commune in Kampong Siem district.
The premier noted that Cambodia cannot always rely on development partners to aid in the construction of bridges moving forward.
“We are quite happy for increasing our capacity,” he said. “We will continue putting our skills to use when we need larger bridges. We will collect our engineers and we will build any bridge using our own capital.”
“We will not just wait for aid from other countries,” he added. “We want ownership of our own fate.”
Mr Hun Sen’s comments of Cambodia being able to build its own bridges came after the Foreign Affairs Ministry on Monday issued a statement that it was inking a deal with South Korea to build a bridge across the Mekong River in Phnom Penh.
In April 2017, Mr Hun Sen said Cambodia needed to build bridges connecting Kdey Ta Koy in Chbar Ampov district to the Arey Ksat area in Kandal province, and from Keo Chenda Street in Chroy Changvar district to the Svay Chrum area in Kandal province’s L’vea Em district.
The announcement of the project supported by South Korea came after a meeting on Friday between Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn and newly appointed South Korean Ambassador to Cambodia Oh Nak-young.
Va Simsorya, spokesman for the Transport Ministry, said the project to build a bridge across the Mekong River would link Chroy Changvar to the Svay Chrum area, which the ministry had already studied under a Chinese aid project.
Last year, Cambodia received about $35 million in aid from the Japanese government to fund the reconstruction of seven bridges in flood-prone areas in Kratie and Prey Veng provinces.
However, China is the largest donor in Cambodia, and many roads and bridges have been built using Chinese aid.
Last month, a Chinese construction firm started building the eighth Cambodia-China Friendship Bridge across the Mekong River in Kampong Cham province.