The US$100 million project will include a resort that will be built between Cambodia's Svay Rieng province and Vietnam's border province of Tay Ninh.
SAWLANI: The Cambodia-Vietnam friendship golf course, featuring nine holes on each side of the border is being backed by Malaysia's CVI Resorts company. The project will include a business centre, an international exhibition centre, a casino and a five star hotel. All these developments, according to Professor Tran Van Hoa from Victoria University's Centre for Strategic Economic Studies, are aimed at attracting more foreign tourists to the border district.
TRAN: Cambodia and Vietnam are very anxious to develop their economies and one aspect of this development is tourism development, and I think this development of a golf course across the border between Vietnam and Cambodia will help to fit it in this national development program.
SAWLANI: Cambodia's interior ministry issued a statement saying that the cross border golf course will be an effective way to improve bilateral ties between the two nations. Professor Tran agrees with that assessment and says that this joint project will help to ease the deep rooted hostilities that exist between the two countries.
TRAN: This kind of development helps Cambodians to improve the neighbouring ties. This kind of development also helps to improve on the past 200 years of hostility between the two countries. And also as WTO members Cambodia and Vietnam can and should improve this kind of relationship, but some of the hostilities have been transformed into competition for business between the two countries. On the public face there seems to be cooperation between Cambodia and Vietnam, but at the same time there is, deep down, some hostility or some competition between the two countries.
SAWLANI: But the decision to construct the resort has raised a few eyebrows in relation to land acquisition, as the Svay Rieng province has long been an area where local Cambodians have been forced to sell their land in the name of national development.
THEARY SENG: The Svay Rieng borders Vietnam and is one of the main border posts between the two countries. Svay Rieng has always been a tumultuous province for Cambodia in light of Vietnamese encroachment, and there have always been charges that Vietnam has encroached the land of Cambodia in Svay Rieng.
SAWLANI: Theary Seng is the executive director of the Centre for Social Development. She says one reason why Cambodians continue to be displaced from their land in the border districts is due to the imbalance of power that exists between the two governments.
THEARY SENG: This current Cambodian regime and Cambodian government came to power because it had escaped to Vietnam and then came back with the power of the Vietnamese soldiers when it entered the Khmer Rouge years in 1979. And since then their close ties and indebtedness between this current Cambodian regime and the Vietnamese government has not been severed, meaning that there is a sense of gratitude, a sense of owing the Vietnamese government for the current government's position and power.
SAWLANI: She says that the construction of the golf course is symbolic of the debt of gratitute that Cambodia seems to owe Vietnam.
SENG: I think it is symbolic and I think there is a real sense of gratitude that is reflected not only in this golf course. This golf course is only one example of the many, many, many favourable conditions that the Cambodian government has given to the Vietnamese government and company. So our concern is that there's such an imbalance of power between Cambodia and Vietnam and to counter that imbalance we would like to open up the competition to other nations, and would like the profits of bidding of concessions to be very, very transparent according to law rather than based on personal ties and whims and personal relationships based on political interests that is for a very, very small group of individuals.