Cambodia Country Profile

An overview of policies and trends on energy, transportation, water, and industrial infrastructure in Cambodia

The Mekong Infrastructure Tracker provides a variety of data about individual infrastructure projects and sectoral trends. This country profile for Cambodia provides additional summary information on national plans, policies, and trends for the sectors included in the Tracker and serves as an additional resource for analysts using the Tracker’s datasets and tools.

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CapitalPhnom Penh
Area181,030 km²
Population 15,288,489 (2019 estimate)
GDP USD 26.730 billion
GDP Growth Rate Projections-1.0 to 2.5% in 2020, usually around 7.0% annually
Inequality (Gini Coefficient)36.6 (medium)
Human Development Index (HDI)0.581
Income StatusLower middle-income status
World Bank Ease of Doing Business Ranking134 out of 190
Key exportclothing, timber, rubber, rice, fish, tobacco, footwear
Map of Cambodia

With falling poverty rates and high economic growth, Cambodia reached lower middle-income status in 2015 and aspires to attain upper middle-income status by 2030.1World Bank, “The World Bank in Cambodia”, World Bank, retrieved on 27 July 2020. However Cambodia will likely remain a least developed country until the mid-2020s and in 2019, Cambodia’s National Council for Sustainable Development declared that the impacts of climate change will likely delay Cambodia’s attainment of  upper middle-income status.2Ministry of Economy and Finance and National Council for Sustainable Development, Addressing Climate Change Impacts on Economic Growth in Cambodia, 2019, page 43. Upward growth needs to be supported through further energy and transport infrastructure investments, which have been developing rapidly but from a low starting point. A significant investment gap remains, and a much larger proportion of GDP spent on infrastructure is needed.

Cambodia’s Infrastructure Gap

A 2016 study by the Asian Development Bank indicates that Southeast Asia needs approximately $2.7 trillion invested in energy, transportation, telecommunications, and water infrastructure by 2030.3Asian Development Bank, Meeting Asia’s Infrastructure Needs, Asian Development Bank, 2017, pages xiv and 43. This calculates to approximately 6% of the region’s annual GDP, with actual needs higher in less developed countries. Energy and transportation account for more than 86% of the total projected needs, rising to 88% if climate considerations are taken into account.4ADB, Meeting Asia’s Infrastructure Needs, 2017, page 45. In Cambodia, the annual national budget and private infrastructure investment combined only account for approximately 2.5% of national GDP, leaving a significant gap.5Infrastructure Outlook, Cambodia“, Infrastructure Outlook, retrieved on 6 June 2020.

A significant expansion of power generation capacity is required to meet Cambodia’s rapidly growing demand for electricity. While the Kingdom’s transportation network is evolving and expanding quickly, it lacks connectivity to many key economic centers domestically and also cross-border connections to regional hubs like Ho Chi Minh City and Bangkok.

Cambodia’s foreign direct investment in 2019 totaled nearly US $3.6 billion. The National Bank of Cambodia reported that 43% of this investment came from China, up from 15% of total FDI in 2017 and far higher than other major investors like South Korea (11% of FDI in 2019), Vietnam (7%), Singapore (6%), and Japan (6%).6Xinhua, “Cambodia attracts 3.6-bln-USD FDI in 2019, 43 pct from China,” Xinhua, January 10, 2020, accessed November 2, 2020, at Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the NBC forecasted that the inflow of FDI into the country would rise 10 percent in 2020, reaching 3.95 billion U.S. dollars.7Xinhua, “Cambodia attracts 3.6-bln-USD FDI in 2019., 43 pct from China.” However, following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic FDI inflows, tourism, and other key economic engines have stalled. The value of approved FDI projects contracted by more than 50% in early 2020, and overall Cambodia’s economy is expected to contract between 1 and 2.9 percent in 2020.8World Bank, “COVID-19 epidemic poses greatest threat to Cambodia’s Development in 30 Years,” May 29, 2020, accessed November 4, 2020, at; The World Bank, Cambodia Economic Update: Cambodia in the Time of COVID-19, May 2020, page 17, at

Energy Sector Overview

The Mekong Infrastructure Tracker shows that Cambodia had 2236 MW of installed power generation capacity in 2020, with 1341 MW of that (60%) coming from hydropower dams and 650 MW (29%) coming from coal. Cambodia’s rapid electricity demand, which has averaged approximately 20% annually since 2010, is largely responsible for the push for hydropower development.9World Wild Fund. Power Sector Vision: Towards 100% Renewable Electricity by 2050. Cambodia Report. May 2016. Page 5. Experts from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) estimate 150-200% higher cumulative growth in energy demand through 2025.10IRENA, Renewable Energy Market Analysis: Southeast Asia, 2018, page 48. This demand growth has resulted in a rapid expansion of Cambodia’s installed capacity in order to avoid shortages.

But recent droughts, particularly in the Mekong Basin, have discouraged further growth in hydropower development as projects are not able to generate reliable power to meet growing demand. Unpredictable swings in weather patterns in addition to a growing concern of the impact of hydropower on the country’s fisheries sectors has driven a rethink in long term and short-term strategies for power generation expansion in Cambodia. Notably, the Cambodian government halted the proposed Sambor and Stung Treng dams; environmental impact studies have demonstrated that the dams would obstruct all connectivity between the Tonlé Sap and upper Mekong River, in addition to devastating local ecologies and severely hampering sediment distribution.

To address immediate electricity shortages, Cambodia has built a few medium-scale solar plants with more in the pipeline as solar tariffs continue to fall both globally and in Cambodia. Since the first pilot solar project came online in 2017, 155 MW of solar projects have become operational and 890 MW are under further development. Cambodia’s urgent response to hydropower’s inefficiencies has included a quick expansion into fossil fuel solutions through the construction of several new coal and heavy fuel plants along the country’s coast and a recently-signed MOU for the import of 2,400 MW of power generated from two new thermal plants in southern Laos.11Thou Vireak, “Kingdom okays 2,400 MW power purchase from Laos,” The Phnom Penh Post, September 11, 2019, accessed November 4, 2020, at Cambodia also signed an MOU to import 200 MW of hydropower capacity from the Don Sahong Dam on the Mekong mainstream in southern Laos near the Cambodian border.

The Royal Government of Cambodia sets targets for the energy sector in the National Strategic Development Plan (NSDP). NSDP prioritizes increasing electricity supply capacity, reducing electricity tariffs to an appropriate level, and strengthening institutions to manage the energy industry.12ADB, “Energy Sector Assessment, Strategy, and Road Map”, ADB, December 2018, retrieved on 7 June 2020. Rural electrification, reduction of high tariff rates, and diversification of the electricity supply are three principle challenges for Cambodia’s electricity sector.

Phnom Penh and other urban electricity demand centers enjoy a high electrification rate (approximately 97%), but the national average electrification rate drops to about 50% when including rural areas.13International Energy Agency, Southeast Asia Energy Outlook 2017, IEA/OECD, 2017, page 104. The government’s 2014 – 2018 National Development Plan included a commitment to speed up electrification efforts to ensure universal access to electricity by 2020.14Royal Government of Cambodia, National Strategic Development Plan 2014 – 2018, July 17, 2014, page 156, at—asia/—ro-bangkok/—sro-bangkok/documents/genericdocument/wcms_364549.pdf But improvements to grid access are slowed by the remote nature of unconnected villages and a lack of investment in micro-grids to serve remote communities due to issues with the regulatory regime for micro-grid investment.

In cooperation with the European Union (EU), Cambodia’s Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME) prepared a National Policy, Strategy, and Action Plan on Energy Efficiency in 2017.15ADB, Energy Sector Assessment, 2018. The Plan set a target to reduce national energy consumption by 20% compared to business-as-usual projections and to reduce national CO2 emissions to 3 million tons annually by 2035.16ADB, Energy Sector Assessment, 2018. These targets are still on the books, but there are questions about how Cambodia’s future energy buildout fits into this framework. The Cambodian utility company EDC has recently set solar targets as high as 1,815 MW (or 17% of peak demand) by 2030.17Keo Rattanak, “Current State of Cambodia’s Electricity Demand and Supply Outlook,” September 2020, accessed November 4, 2020, at This indicates that alternative renewable energy technologies are penetrating the market, but the recent announcements of major new coal plants and purchases of coal power from Laos raise questions about future emissions. The international business community has raised concerns about these trends and called on the government to support further deployment of renewables.18Shaun Turton, “Cambodia’s shift to coal power riles global brands,” Nikkei Asia, August 11, 2020, accessed November 4, 2020, at

Electricity Transmission

Project NameSihanoukville CIIDG Power Station 2
Current StatusUnder Construction
Capacity (MW)700 MW
Year of Completion2022
Country of Sponsor/DeveloperChina; Cambodia
Sponsor/Developer CompanyCIIDG Erdos Hongjun Electric Power (Cambodia, China); Cambodia International Investment Development Group Co Ltd. (Cambodia)
Country list of Construction/EPCChina; Cambodia
Lender/FinancierChinese banks; Royal Group (Cambodia)
Province/StateKrong Preah Sihanouk
DistrictStueng Hav
WatershedCoastal Rivers Kampot-Sihanoukville
Sihanoukville CIIDG Power Station 2

When complete in 2022, the Sihanoukville CIIDG Power Station will be the largest thermal coal facility and largest single power station in Cambodia. It will expand Cambodia’s current power generation capacity by about 25%, providing a substantial boost to power generation as well as fueling further industrial development around Sihanoukville. Sihanoukville boasts multiple Special Economic Zones. The project has drawn concern over its large carbon footprint as well as the origin of its core equipment. Over 45,000 tons of industrial components from the retired Hunan Chungyuan coal plant in China are to be shipped to Cambodia for the construction of the Sihanoukville CIIDG Power Station. There are reports that the plant was dismantled in China after it was found to be violating environmental laws inside China.19Lili Pike, “Coal plant deemed too polluting for China heads to Cambodia,” China Dialogue, Aug 29, 2019, accessed November 2, 2020, at This raises questions about why the project is being rebuilt in Cambodia and whether China is exporting outdated coal technology.

Physical Connectivity Overview

Map of Cambodia in the Mekong Infrastructure Tracker
Snapshot of Phnom Penh

Cambodia’s economic growth over the last decade has been driven by tourism, manufacturing (primarily garments for export), and more recently commercial and residential construction. These three industries account for 70% of Cambodia’s economic growth and nearly 40% of the labor market.20The World Bank, Cambodia Economic Update, page 3. Agriculture is key for national food security and employment, but its there is substantial opportunity to expand agriculture’s currently limited role as a driver of economic growth.21The World Bank, Cambodia Economic Update, page 11. All four of these sectors rely on transportation for the effective flow to export goods and products, provide tourism services, and deliver necessary materials.22Asian Development Bank (ADB), Cambodia Transport Sector Assessment, Strategy, and Roadmap, September 2019. The World Bank 2018 Logistics Performance Index ranked Cambodia 98th out of 16023The World Bank, “World Bank Open Data,” The World Bank, retrieved on 22 October 2020.

Cambodia’s location between Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam makes it a central and critical part of the Greater Mekong Subregion’s Southern Economic Corridor. The Southern Economic Corridor aims to connect key provinces in southern and eastern Thailand to coastal regions in Vietnam via Cambodia and southern Laos.24The Asian Development Bank, Strategy and Action Plan for the Greater Mekong Subregion Southern Economic Corridor, 2010, page 5, accessible at A major road and rail route is being developed and expanded over portions of existing routes to connect Bangkok to Ho Chi Minh City via Phnom Penh, but more investment is needed to complete critical segments of these projects.

The Mekong Infrastructure Tracker includes project-level data on 8006 km of national roads, 2637 km of railways, and 3352 km of canals.

Road Transport

Road transport accounts for over 90% of freight and passenger transport in Cambodia, making it by far the largest method of transportation.25Asian Development Bank (ADB), Cambodia Transport Sector Assessment, 2019. The government of Cambodia has consistently identified roads as one of four key priority areas for development, and this has continued under the Sixth Legislature of the National Assembly in 2018 with a focus on improving logistics and connectivity.26Royal Government of Cambodia, Rectangular Strategy for Growth, Employment, Equity, and Efficiency: Building the Foundation Toward Realizing the Cambodia Vision 2050, Phnom Penh, September 2018,  page 10, at The prioritization of road infrastructure has paid off, as Cambodia’s Logistics Performance Index ranking rose rapidly from 129 in 2010 to 98 in 2018.

To further improve connectivity and transportation efficiency, Cambodia will need to upgrade and expand its high-quality road network. Cambodia has over 61,000 km of domestic roads, but the vast majority are rural roads and only approximately 6,200 km of the national and provincial roads are paved.27ADB, Cambodia Transport Sector Assessment, 2019, page 4. Improving the quality of these roads—in particular, paving more of the provincial and national roads—will help improve the system’s overall effectiveness. 

The Mekong Infrastructure Tracker has project-level detail on 5,852 km of national roads and 2,154 upgrades to national roads. Users can view provincial and local roads on the base map layer.

Railway Transport

Rail currently plays a minimal role in terms of passenger transportation inside Cambodia, due in part to its limited level of development. Cambodia only has two operational railway lines: the Southern Line, built in the 1960s, and the Northern Line which was constructed during the French colonial period in the 1930s.28Cambodia Ministry of Public Works and Transport, “Railway Services,” accessed November 3, 2020, at The Northern line links Phnom Penh to Sisophon and Poi Pet along the Thai-Cambodia border, while the Southern Line links Phnom Penh to the coastal port at Sihanoukville.29JICA, page 2-78, at

Much of Cambodia’s railway system was damaged during the civil war, but the government of Cambodia embarked on major efforts to rehabilitate the railway in the late 2000s. With support from the Asian Development Bank, the railway was turned from a state-owned enterprise into a public-private-partnership project.30ADB, Cambodia Transport Sector Assessment, 2019.

In 2011 Cambodia’s Ministry of Public Works and Transportation and the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) agreed to formulate a national master plan for the railway network.31Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), The Data Collection Survey on International Logistics Function Strengthening in the Kingdom of Cambodia, June 2016, page 2-80, accessed at Published in 2014, the Railway Master Plan identified a series of priority projects to expand the rail network and improve access to east and northeastern Cambodia as well as create eight branch lines to link in other provinces.32JICA, page 2-81. Through 2020 KOICA recommended prioritizing improvements to the existing Northern Line and creation of a third main rail line that would link Phnom Penh to the eastern provinces and the border with Vietnam.33Hort Sroeu, “Infrastructure Development in Cambodia,” Korea International Cooperation Agency Cambodia, presentation on January 27, 2017, accessed at

Plans for many of these proposed projects are still relatively early in the development stage. The Mekong Infrastructure Tracker showcases over 2,600 km worth of railways and railway upgrades across all stages of development.

Prominent Project: Phnom Penh – Ho Chi Minh City Rail Link

Project NamePhnom Penh-Ho Chi Minh City Rail Link
Current StatusPlanned
Length (km)281
Year of CompletionProject still under study
Screenshot from the Mekong Infrastructure Tracker of Phnom Penh – Ho Chi Minh City Rail Link

Cambodia’s Ministry of Public Works and Vietnam’s Ministry of Transport announced a proposal for the 281km Phnom Penh-Ho Chi Minh railway plan in early 2018. The railway would cross the border at Bavet city in Cambodia’s Svay Rieng province, entering the town of Moc Bai on the Vietnamese side. Bavet, a small city with a population of just under 40,000, is one of the poorest in the country, its main income source being Vietnamese patronage of its 12 casinos.34Global Construction Review, “Cambodia Mulls Railway to Vietnam”, Global Construction Review, 7 October 2020, retrieved on 4 November 2020 at The railway could potentially position Bavet as an “international border gateway”, facilitating the trade of manufactured goods produced in the nearby Svay Rieng special economic zone.35Global Construction Review, 2020 It may also increase Cambodian access to Chinese markets, as an estimated 40% of Chinese goods bound for Cambodia travel through Vietnam.36Global Construction Review, 2020 While attracting and securing investment is still an ongoing process and the project is in early stages of development, if built, the railway would significantly boost connectivity in the Mekong River Delta region.


The Mekong River system in Cambodia contains a vast network of connected rivers, tributaries, and canals totaling 11,000 km altogether.37Brian Eyler and Courtney Weatherby, “Letters from the Mekong: Toward a Sustainable Water-Energy-Food Future in Cambodia,” The Stimson Center, 2020, page 3 While not all of this is navigable, waterway transportation plays a vital role in the national economy and in terms of trade and cargo. The Mekong River plays a major role in North to South connectivity, with significant traffic and commerce between Phnom Penh and the Mekong Delta in Vietnam.

In December 2009, Cambodia and Vietnam signed a bilateral Treaty on Waterway Transportation that established freedom of navigation between the two countries, improve river access and efficiency along the 65 river ports.38Mekong River Commission, “Cambodia and Viet Nam formally open-up cross-border river trade on the Mekong,” December 17, 2009, accessed November 3, 2020, at This caused rapid growth in business at the Phnom Penh Autonomous Port: goods processed rose 45% in 2010,39Chun Sophal, “Port on track to surpass 2010 traffic goal,” The Phnom Penh Post, December 6, 2010, accessed November 3, 2020, at and as a result in 2011 Cambodia began construction of new container docks to expand storage capacity.40Council for the Development of Cambodia, “Inland Water Transportation,” Invest Cambodia, accessed November 3, 2020, at Connectivity to Laos remains limited due to natural rapids just 2 km north of the Lao-Cambodia border.

The Mekong Infrastructure Tracker includes detailed data on 247 canals that amount to 3,355 km in total length, located mostly in provinces surrounding the Tonlé Sap lake and the lowlands surrounding the Mekong River south of Phnom Penh. 

Industrial Zones and Transportation Hubs 

Industrialization and export-oriented manufacturing have played a key role in driving Cambodia’s transition to lower middle-income status; industry has sharply risen to make up 34% of GDP as of 2019, according to the World Bank.41The World Bank, “World Bank Open Data,” The World Bank, retrieved on 22 October 2020. Over 25% of the labor force is employed in industry, with most households participating in garment production, construction and general manufacturing.42International Labour Organization, “Country Profiles”, The International Labour Organization, retrieved on 23 October 2020 The Mekong Infrastructure Tracker dataset provides details on more than 42 airports, railway stations, sea or inland ports, special economic zones and other industrial zones of importance in Cambodia.

Special Economic Zones

To facilitate industrialization, Cambodia has chosen a development model of promoting special economic zones open to foreign investors. Currently, Cambodia has 25 special economic zones totaling more than 75 square kilometers with cluster area near the Thai border in the northwest, near the Vietnamese border in Svay Rieng Province, in Sihanoukville and in Phnom Penh. The Mekong Infrastructure Tracker reveals that foreign investment in these SEZs comes mainly from China and Taiwan.

Air Transport

Air transit in Cambodia has a low share of national transportation and plays an insignificant role in terms of freight traffic.43ADB, Cambodia Transport Sector Assessment, 2019. However, it is absolutely key for tourism: of the 6.2 million tourists in 2018, two-thirds came via airplane into one of Cambodia’s three international airports.44Cambodia Ministry of Tourism, Tourism Statistics Report: Year 2018, page 3, at Tourism has grown rapidly in recent years and in 2019 Cambodia saw a year-on-year increase of 11%, the third highest growth in all of ASEAN.45Chea Vannak, “Cambodia 3rd in ASEAN for tourist growth,” The Khmer Times, January 22, 2019, accessed November 4, 2020, at While the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 has deeply disrupted tourism, tourism numbers in 2018 had almost reached the 2020 target of 7 million tourists in Cambodia’s Tourism Development Strategic Plan.46ADB, Cambodia Transport Sector Assessment, 2019.

Cambodia has ten airports and project-level details are available for nine of them in the Mekong Infrastructure Tracker. There is a need to upgrade existing airport infrastructure in order to meet the rapidly rising demand. Phnom Penh International Airport and Siem Reap International Airport can each respectively handle about 5 million passengers a year.47ADB, Cambodia Transport Sector Assessment, 2019. The likelihood that growth in tourism will outpace these numbers has prompted plans for expansion.

Between 2013 and 2018, approximately $2.9 billion was committed to upgrades and new construction in the aviation sector.48ADB, Cambodia Transport Sector Assessment, 2019. Much of this is for the development of new airports, including a new and upgraded Phnom Penh International Airport which will cost $1.5 billion.49Sok Chan, “Capital’s new airport construction largely unaffected by days of deluges,” The Khmer Times, October 20, 2020, accessed November 4, 2020, at The New Siem Reap International Airport began construction in early 2020 and should begin operation in 2023.50Sorn Sarath, “$880m Siem Reap International Airport to be ready in 3 years,” The Khmer Times, May 13, 2020, accessed November 4, 2020, at The third major project is the Dara-Sakor International Airport in Koh Kong Province, which is expected to start operation in mid-2021.51Sok Chan, “Luxury new international airport ‘to be operational by mid-2021,’” The Khmer Times, October 15, 2020, accessed November 4, 2020, at The developer of the Dara-Sakor International Airport was sanctioned under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act by the US Treasury over land seizures associated with the project.52U.S. Department of the Treasury, “Treasury Sanctions Chinese Entity in Cambodia under Global Magnitsky Authority,” September 15, 2020, accessed November 4, 2020, at

Port Infrastructure

Cambodia has two main ports: the Phnom Penh Autonomous Port, which is an inland river port near the confluence of the Tonle Sap and Mekong rivers, and the Sihanoukville Autonomous Port (SAP), which is Cambodia’s only existing deep-water port. Both are financially independent state-owned enterprises and they hold the majority of the import-export volume (12 million tons at PPAP and 5.2 million tons through SAP). There are also many smaller ports along the Mekong, Bassac, and Tonle Sap Rivers that supply local communities. Three smaller maritime ports in Koh Kong Province—Okhna Mong, Sre Ambel, and Koh Kong—are used primarily for importing goods from Thailand.53ADB, Cambodia Transport Sector Assessment, 2019, page 13.

The government does have plans to expand port infrastructure. Priority activities include developing technical standards for further port development and operation; rehabilitate existing waterways, ports, and related infrastructure; improve classification of vessels and waterway depths to improve navigation; and dredge waterways to improve access for larger vessels along inland waterways.54Mr. Huon Rath, The Waterways Infrastructure Development in Cambodia, Ministry of Public Works and Transport, presentation at PIANC, October 24, 2019, accessed November 4, 2020, at

Prominent Industrial Zone Snapshot: Sihanoukville Port Special Economic Zone

Project Development Cycle StageOperational
Total Investment (million USD)34
Area (km2)2.146707
Sponsor/Developer:PAS & JBIC Loan CP-P6
State or ProvinceKrong Preah Sihanouk
Main River BasinCambodia Coastal Rivers Kampot Sihanoukville
TributaryCoastal Rivers Kampot-Sihanoukville
Data SourceOpen Development Cambodia
Screenshot from the Mekong Infrastructure Tracker of Sihanoukville Port Special Economic Zone

Sihanoukville Port SEZ is connected to one of the two main maritime ports in Cambodia. Established in 2009, this SEZ supports businesses in the vicinity of the port and was developed by the Port Authority of Sihanoukville and was supported with loans from the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC). Unlike most of the other SEZs in Cambodia, the Sihanoukville Port SEZ is a public-private joint venture.55Peter Warr and Jayant Menon, Cambodia’s Special Economic Zones, ADB Economics Working Paper Series No. 459, October 2015, page 7, at Investors in the zone are able to receive benefits in terms of 50-year land leases, exemption of import and export duties, no value added tax, and exemptions from taxes on profit for 9 years.56Port Authority of Sihanoukville, “Sihanoukville Port Special Economic Zone,” accessed November 4, 2020, at

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