Cambodia National Road 6
EWH638 A motorcycle towing a cart with wood logs is parked on the roadside of National Road 6 in Skun, Kampong Cham Province, Cambodia.
Cambodia National Road 6
The National Road 6 (NR 6) is a 415.5 km Cambodian highway stretching from the capital city of Phnom Penh to Banteay Meanchey Province in northwestern Cambodia on the border of Thailand. This major road connects both the cities of Phnom Penh and Siem Reap to the Thai border, designating it as a crucial international trade and transport corridor for the Kingdom. Investment in the road’s upkeep and maintenance is therefore essential, and the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) has welcomed overseas investment to this end. NR 6 is sectioned in line with its crossing of provincial borders and according to administrative authority. One such example is the Ang Krong-Thnal Kaeng (AKTK) section.
Having been identified for rehabilitation, the section was officially inaugurated in a ceremony under Prime Minister Hun Sen on 11 June 2018. The section spans 248.5 km in length from Ang Krong in the Siem Reap Province, the home of Angkor Wat and the most popular tourist destination in the country, to Thnal Kaeng in Kampong Cham Province, near the outskirts of Phnom Penh. The construction took 50 months, beginning in May 2013 and concluding in July 2017. At the inauguration ceremony of NR 6 on 10 June 2018, the Ministry of Public Works and Transport (MPWT) explained that the new road was paved with 10 cm-thick AC rubber concrete and passes through three critical provinces including Kampong Cham (43.98 km), Kampong Thom (144.25 km), and Siem Reap (60.30 km).
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) identifies the main sectors driving economic growth in Cambodia: agriculture, tourism, construction, and manufacturing. These sectors rely heavily on roads to transport people, materials, and goods. As of 2019, Cambodian roads provided the means for an estimated 90 percent of total transport. Given this dependence on local transport systems, 12 percent (or USD 910 million) of the country’s 2014–18 National Strategic Development Plan (NSDP) budget was allocated for transport infrastructure improvement.
Funds for almost all road projects in Cambodia come from foreign sources. Sources for road funding in Cambodia are evenly split between two dominant and two secondary sources. Between 2014 and 2018, China funded 38.5 percent of Cambodia’s national and provincial road projects (for a total of USD 618 million), while Japan funded 37.9 percent (USD 609 million), South Korea funded 12 percent (USD 192 million), and multilateral development banks funded the remaining 11.6 percent (USD 187 million).
At the time of the AKTK section’s inauguration in June 2018, 23 roads totaling more than 2,300 km in Cambodia had been built on Chinese loans, while another 7—constituting 735 km—were under construction. By December 2020, China had reportedly funded more than 3,000 km of road construction in the Kingdom with more than USD 3 billion in concessional loans, not including an additional USD 2 billion for the Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville Expressway, which is currently in the works.
In 2012, Shanghai Construction Group Co., Ltd. (SCG), a Chinese state-owned enterprise (SOE), secured the contract to repave and expand the AKTK section, with project oversight from Guangzhou Wanan Construction Supervision Co., Ltd. (GWCSC), which works under the local jurisdiction of the Ministry of Public Works and Transport (MPWT). The MPWT is responsible for managing all road development, construction, and improvements. However, there is no confirmation of whether the MPWT was the executive/implementing agency (EA) and/or carried out procurement activities for this project, as the MPWT only has procurement documents publicly available from 2017 onward.
Reports suggest that 95 percent of the total budget of USD 255 million came from a Chinese concessional loan and 5 percent from the Cambodian government. The loan financing for the construction of NR 6’s AKTK section was granted in a USD 430 million concessional package from China EXIM Bank in 2012. This included funds designated for the AKTK section, another National Road project, and a multipurpose dam in Battambang Province.
The details of the loan term were not publicly disclosed aside from the shared percentage of the loan, of which 95 percent came from China EXIM Bank and 5 percent from the Cambodian government (in a budget of USD 255 million).
A Lack of Transparency
A primary area of concern regarding the AKTK section development is a lack of project transparency around the bidding process, awarding of the contract, and funding allocation. There are multiple news sources acknowledging the existence of the project, but there are competing stories of timelines and financing.
Corruption and Misuse of Funds
As of 2019, ADB reported that the 2014 Road Law, which covered areas such as technical regulations, roads, uses, funding sources, inspections, and penalties, had yet to be properly implemented. Furthermore, there were allegations of embezzlement which was believed to be the reason for the often extremely long construction periods for roads in Cambodia, as disruptions in funds cause delays and confusion. However, there is (naturally) a lack of clarity related to the distribution of potentially embezzled funds, raising a standard question in BRI programming as to how much “project mismanagement” can be attributed to China versus the weak capacity of the recipient state. Another point of importance regards corruption in the bidding process by Cambodian officials looking to extract charges on the bidding.
Quality Issues in Construction
Chinese road construction in Cambodia has been subject to criticism regarding the quality of work and materials used. Articles published in the Khmer Times explain that the paving of NR 6 from Kampong Cham to Siem Reap was completed in November 2016, but inspections by the MPWT found that it was not up to standard. The same criticisms plagued another Shanghai Construction Group Co., Ltd. (SCG) project, National Road 8, for its poor quality. The poor quality of SCG-constructed roads raises multiple questions, as it is not the first time that the SCG has conducted road projects in Cambodia, and the company has largely dominated this section in the country.
To capture different practices, quality and level of transparency, researchers are asked to answer six related questions for each data point. 1 point is assigned for each question to which the answer is “yes.” Each data point therefore has a total score between 0 and 6, where “0” means no information was publicly available at the time of research (not transparent) and “6” means full transparency.
|Project & Contract Phase||Project Information||Score||Response||Link to Information|
|Project Identification||Project owner||Ministry of Public Works and Transportation||https://www.khmertimeskh.com/499590/national-road-6-officially-in-service/|
|Sector, subsector||Transportation||ផ្លូវជាតិលេខ៦ ប្រវែងជាង២៤៨គីឡូម៉ែត្រ ដែលចំណាយថវិកាជាង២៥៥លានដុល្លារ ត្រូវបានសម្ពោធដាក់ឲ្យប្រើប្រាស់ជាផ្លូវការហើយ | រដ្ឋបាលខេត្តកំពង់ធំ (kampongthom.gov.kh)|
|Project name||National Road No .6||https://pressocm.gov.kh/archives/32053|
|Project Location||National Road 6 (NR6): Thnal Keng In Kampong Cham Province to Ang Krong In Siem Reap||https://pressocm.gov.kh/archives/32053|
|Purpose||Transportation (logistics improvement)||https://pressocm.gov.kh/archives/32053|
|Project description||A 248.53 km road that connects Batheay district ( Kampong Cham province) to Angkrong (Southern Siem Reap province) by passing through three provinces including Kampong Cham (43.98 km long), Kampong Thom (144.25 km long), and Siem Reap (60.30km). It was funded by China’s government. The total budget is about $255 M which 95% is Chinese concessional loan. Construction began in May 2013 and finished in July 2017, with an official inauguration in June 2018.||https://pressocm.gov.kh/archives/32053|
|Project Preparation||Project Scope (main output)||NR6 is paved with 10 cm thick AC rubber concrete by passing through three provinces including Kampong Cham (43.98 km long), Kampong Thom (144.25 km long), and Siem Reap (60.30km), for a total length of 248.53 km||https://pressocm.gov.kh/archives/32053|
|Environmental impact||Not available|
|Land and settlement impact||
During the inauguration ceremony in July 2018, Prime Minister Hun Sen thanked 4000 families who agreed to move (with compensation), explaining that 42 additional families refused to relocate, demanding larger compensation. The research team assumes that the government expropriated the land in order to serve public interest; however, this cannot be confirmed in light of Covid-related field research limitations
However, other than that the project team was unable to find any information on official social impact assessments, official numbers of displacement and compensation, and whether compensation was ever carried out. Should the score be lower due to a lack of clarity?
|Contact details||Not available||https://www.mpwt.gov.kh/en/contact-us/general-department-of-land-transport|
|Funding sources||China’s Export Import (EXIM) Bank||https://www.phnompenhpost.com/business/cambodia-takes-430m-china-loan
|Project Budget||The total budget is about $255 million USD, including 5% from the Cambodian government for demining and compensation.||https://pressocm.gov.kh/archives/32053|
|Project budget approval date||In 2012, a concessional loan package of $430 million USD was granted to Cambodia from China’s Export Import (EXIM) Bank, with funds designated for national road 6, another national road project, and a multipurpose dam in Battambong province.||https://www.phnompenhpost.com/business/cambodia-takes-430m-china-loan|
|Project Completion||Project status (current)||NR6 is completed.||https://www.khmertimeskh.com/499590/national-road-6-officially-in-service/|
|Completion cost (projected)||Projected same as actual completion cost: The total budget is about 255 million USD, including 5% from the Cambodian government for demining and compensation.||https://pressocm.gov.kh/archives/32053/|
|Completion date (projected)||Actual completion date: 50 months.||ផ្លូវជាតិលេខ៦ ប្រវែងជាង២៤៨គីឡូម៉ែត្រ ដែលចំណាយថវិកាជាង២៥៥លានដុល្លារ ត្រូវបានសម្ពោធដាក់ឲ្យប្រើប្រាស់ជាផ្លូវការហើយ | រដ្ឋបាលខេត្តកំពង់ធំ (kampongthom.gov.kh)|
|Scope at completion||Paving of National Road 6 from Kampong Cham to Siem Reap was completed by November of 2016, but inspection by the Ministry of Public Works and Transport (MPWT) found it not up to standards. The entire road was repaved with an additional 3cm of asphalt, for an estimated cost of 10 million USD.||https://www.khmertimeskh.com/63692/chinese-road-firm-promises-better-work/
|Reasons for project changes||Articles published in the Khmer Times explaining that the paving of National Road 6 from Kampong Cham to Siem Reap was completed in November of 2016, but inspection by the Ministry of Public Works and Transport (MPWT) found it not up to standards. Shanghai Construction Group’s (SCG) director-general of overseas operations, Tang Jun, met with MPWT minister Sun Chanthol in January 2017 and agreed to repave the entire road with an additional 3cm of asphalt–an estimated $10 million USD cost that would come from SCG directly to assume responsibility for the lack of quality.||https://www.khmertimeskh.com/63692/chinese-road-firm-promises-better-work/
|Reference to audit and evaluation reports||Not available|
|Procurement||Procuring entity||Ministry of Public Works and Transport (MPWT)||https://www.mpwt.gov.kh/kh/about-us/mission-and-vision|
|Procuring entity contact details||Street 598 (H.E. Chea Sophara Street), Sangkat Chrang Chamres 2, Khan Russey Keo, Phnom Penh [email protected]||https://www.mpwt.gov.kh/en/home|
|Procurement process||Not available|
|Contract type||The road was built by Shanghai Construction Group Co., Ltd., with oversight from Guangzhou Wanan Construction Supervision Co., Ltd.||https://www.construction-property.com/renovated-250km-stretch-of-national-road-6-inaugurated/|
|Contract status (current)||Not available||(Live) សម្តេចតេជោ ហ៊ុន សែន អញ្ជើញសម្ពោធកំណាត់ផ្លូវជាតិលេខ៦ – YouTube|
|Number of firms tendering||Not available|
|Cost estimate||Not available|
|Contract administration entity||While it is never explicitly stated, based on MPWT presence and speeches at NR6’s inauguration ceremony and their mission statement, it is assumed MPWT is both the administrating and procuring entity.||https://www.mpwt.gov.kh/kh/about-us/mission-and-vision|
|Contract title||Not available|
|Contract firm(s)||Construction contractor: Shanghai Construction Engineering Group Co., Ltd. Address: No. 666, Dongdaming Road, Shanghai, 200080 Phone: (021)55885959
Oversight contractor: Guangzhou Wanan Construction Supervision Co., Ltd. Address: Guangzhou Tianhe Software Park, No. 66 Jian Zhong Jia Du Business Building, Room 501, West Tower
|Contract price||Not available|
|Contract scope of work||A 248.53 km road that connects Batheay district ( Kampong Cham province) to Angkrong (Southern Siem Reap province) by passing through three provinces including Kampong Cham (43.98 km long), Kampong Thom (144.25 km long), and Siem Reap (60.30km). It was funded by China’s government. The total budget is about $255 M which 95% is Chinese concessional loan. Construction began in May 2013 and finished in July 2017, with an official inauguration in June 2018.||សម្តេចតេជោ ហ៊ុន សែន អញ្ជើញសម្ពោធកំណាត់ផ្លូវជាតិលេខ៦ ប្រវែងជាង ២៤៨គីឡូម៉ែត្រ ពីថ្នល់កែង ខេត្តកំពង់ចាម ដល់អង្រ្គង ខេត្តសៀមរាប | PRESS OCM I អង្គភាពព័ត៌មាន និងប្រតិកម្មរហ័ស|
|Contract start date and duration||Kampong Thom’s provincial authority website described that construction started in May of 2013.||ផ្លូវជាតិលេខ៦ ប្រវែងជាង២៤៨គីឡូម៉ែត្រ ដែលចំណាយថវិកាជាង២៥៥លានដុល្លារ ត្រូវបានសម្ពោធដាក់ឲ្យប្រើប្រាស់ជាផ្លូវការហើយ | រដ្ឋបាលខេត្តកំពង់ធំ (kampongthom.gov.kh)|
|Implementation||Variation to contract price||The only change was the $10 million USD repaving of NR6 because the MPWT found the original work not up to standards. However, this cost was completely covered by the construction company, Shanghai Construction Group, so it is not really included in “project price.”||Original price:http://www.asean-china-center.org/english/2013-03/05/c_132210075.htm.|
|Escalation of contract price||Not available|
|Variation to contract duration||Actual completion date: 50 months|
|Variation to contract scope||No changes in project scope.||final scope: https://pressocm.gov.kh/archives/32053|
|Reasons for price changes||Not available|
|Reasons for scope & duration changes||Not available|