Construction set to begin for world’s tallest twin tower in Phnom Penh

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The planned 560-meter Thai Boon Roong Twin Tower World Trade Center in Phnom Penh

A Chinese construction consortium won a $2.7-billion contract to build a 133-story twin-tower commercial skyscraper in Phnom Penh which – at a height of 560 meters – would become the tallest twin tower in the world, surpassing the current record holder, Kuala Lumpur’s Petronas Towers, by 108 meters.

The consortium comprises of Sino Great Wall International and another Chinese company, Wuchang Shipbuild­ing Industry Group. The contract was awarded by Cambodian-owned Thai Boon Roong Group and Macau-based Sun Kian Ip Group which are financing the new structure, called Thai Boon Roong Twin Tower World Trade Center.

The towers, consisting of a luxury hotel, offices, condominiums and retail space, are to be built on five hectares of prime real estate across the NagaWorld casino in Cambodia’s capital. There will also be an exhibition hall, a theater and restaurants.

According to Sino Great Wall, construction is expected to start in the first quarter of 2017 and will take about 60 months. That way, the project will be entering a race with Bangkok’s planned Rama IX Super Tower for the title of the future tallest structure in Southeast Asia. Construction of the Rama IX tower will also take about five years, but its height is envisaged to reach 615 meters.

The financing background of the project in Cambodia is a bit shady, though. Thai Boon Roong, which operates the InterContinental hotel in Phnom Penh and casinos in the country. is owned by the son of controversial Cambodian tycoon Teng Bunma, who died in June last year.

Bunma was a crony of ruling Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and is said to have made his fortune with drug trade and opaque deals with former Khmer Rouge functionaries. He was wanted in Thailand and Hong Kong for fraud charges and denied entry to the US for his role in the international narcotics trade.

The other company, Sun Kian Ip Group, is owned by Macao-based billionaire developer Ng Lap Seng who was in the center of an alleged bribery case involving the United Nations in 2015 and 2016.

It is also not clear whether the project will be built as a whole. While their have been ambitious investments in Phom Penh’s office property market in the past, the country’s current tallest building – the 39-story Vattanac Capital tower which was completed in 2014 –  never saw a higher oc­cupancy rate than about 30 per cent. Another major project, South Korea-financed Gold Tow­er 42, has been put on hold several times since it broke ground in 2008. Construction on the 42-story building is now expected to be completed in 2018.