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Tea Leaves

In Cambodia's construction frenzy, size does matter

Extravagant and questionable projects risk overwhelming Phnom Penh

The Royal Palace and buildings in Phnom Penh   © Reuters

The Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh is perhaps not the first place one thinks of when it comes to the world's biggest airports. But a plan to build just such a facility in the small Southeast Asian nation, reported in mid-January, is the latest in a series of extravagant and, according to many critics, dubious projects. They have been sprouting under the leadership of Prime Minister Hun Sen, the strongman who recently marked 33 years in power.

Located about 30km south of the capital, the airport would be the world's ninth largest, spanning 2,600 hectares, and cost $1.5 billion to construct, according to some local estimates. These figures have raised concerns about the project's viability and questions about the necessity of building such a large airport in a country of less than 20 million people.

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