Koh Rong is the second largest island in Cambodia after Koh Kong, with a total land area of approximately 78 square kilometres.
Located in Sangkat Koh Rong of the Mittakpheap district in Sihanoukville province, the island is about 25 kilometres from the mainland.
With four village communities comprising more than 3,000 people, the island is one of the most attractive offshore destinations for both local and international tourists. And this looks set to continue due to the announcement of upcoming mega-tourism projects to be developed on the island by The Royal Group, a major Cambodian consortium.
To boost development on Koh Rong, in 2008 the government granted a 99-year lease of land concessions to The Royal Group to develop a five-star hotel and luxury resorts. Both the government and the Royal Group aim to transform the island into Asia’s most attractive tourist destination.
Seng Hour Lean, the chief of the Sangkat or local authority on Koh Rong, said: “Koh Rong will become one of Southeast Asia’s most attractive islands owing to its natural beauty and upcoming development projects by The Royal Group and another 100 smaller firms.
“The Royal Group of Oknha Kith Meng has been developing there already, with basic and major infrastructures being expected soon.”
Meanwhile, Den Sakal, the CEO of Universal Real Estate, based in Sihanoukville province, said: “Koh Rong is one of the most beautiful beach islands in Cambodia, attracting a lot of national and international tourists every year.
“Every time tourists visit Sihanoukville, they never forget to visit Koh Rong. The island has excellent amenities and services similar to those in Sihanoukville. These services include beaches, hotels, guesthouses, bungalows, restaurants, night clubs and pubs.”
However, over the past few years there has been controversy regarding Koh Rong land titles for villagers living on the island. Some who have lived on the island since before 2008 had a legal land title for their land, while those coming to live after 2008 have had no legal land titles. Yet the strength of these titles amid disputes remains uncertain.
Commenting on this issue, In Nan, a partner of KohRongProperty.com, said: “People say they have land ownership rights on the island, but do not have hard titles for their land ownership.
“They can sell and buy the land as normal – but the price is not high without the hard title. I am concerned about the slow process of the island’s development as the government is taking so long to address the conflict between villagers and companies and to ensure the legal land title for residents.”
Yet Mr. Seng confirmed that the government had already solved the land title issue for the residents of Kong Rong, and the issuing was publicly announced to villagers on July 14 this year – last Friday. “Therefore, local residents will now feel comfortable and can sell or buy the land if they want to without any concern,” he said.
Regarding the upcoming development projects in Koh Rong, he added: “The Royal Group alone plans to develop over a total area of 2,500 hectares; another smaller 100 companies will also be developing on the island.
“Airport, casino, transportation services, water treatment plants and electricity will soon be developed there. Moreover, the government also plans to make Koh Rong into a tourist city, which is good news for local villagers in particular and the province in general.”
Development plans in Koh Rong will be a huge benefit to local people as land prices are expected to skyrocket and residents will have a better chance of earning more money when more tourists flock to the island.
Mr In said: “Koh Rong is an island of great future potential, especially for the tourism sector since it is one of the most beautiful islands in Cambodia, offering the best place for relaxing and refreshing with green areas and the sea.
“Local people can run every type of small businesses to respond to the local market’s demand. They will feel delighted with more job opportunities which will ultimately raise their standards of living.”
As for land prices, Mr Den and Mr In shared agreed: “Land prices vary based on its particular area: coastal land, residential land or farmland. Land prices can range from $35 to $75 per square metre.
“After the government confirms legal land titles for the residents of Koh Rong and ends the conflict and uncertainty over the land of residents and the land of companies, it is highly likely that land prices will skyrocket and Koh Rong will change.”
Brad King, the Managing Director at Cambodia Real Estate, which is based in Sihanoukville with an office on Koh Rong, said: “Koh Rong will be Sihanoukville’s next boom destination for real estate investors, in particular those focused on high-end hospitality.”
Mr King added: “Investors should turn their attention to Koh Rong land investment, as at the moment the land prices on the island are much cheaper than the Sihanoukville mainland, where speculation from investors, in particular the Chinese, is pushing prices higher than similar plots of land along the Thai and Philippine coastlines.
“This is stunting ongoing investment on the mainland, and price speculation is becoming ridiculous. Average land prices on Koh Rong, however, now are about $50 per square metre – compared to more than $1,000 along the Sihanoukville coastline.
“Furthermore, the beaches of Koh Rong are some of the finest in the region.”
Prum Seng, the CEO of Nan Seng Co, Ltd, a real estate firm based in Sihanouk, said: “Issuing the hard titles for villagers will offer a positive benefit for both residents and investors.
“Villagers will have a great opportunity of land price growth for their plots of land – and their business opportunities will grow quickly now. And people can sell their land without any concern anymore.
“Meanwhile, investors will receive a 100 percent guarantee that they can now safely purchase land on the island with fully respected hard title ownership.
“We can expect the future of Koh Rong to be very bright. While the land is small, demand for that land will be huge once the land titles are fully approved. This is an exciting time to live and do business here.”
Ky Kosal is a Content Writer @Realestate.com.kh