Construction at Cambodia’s Ream Naval Base has accelerated in recent months, especially on the northern end of the facility which is suspected to be set aside for China’s use. A slew of new buildings have gone up alongside major land clearing and, in the latest development, the beginnings of a new pier.
In mid-June, what appears to be a new pier made of dredged sediment was built. Construction equipment is visible in the area in the latest imagery. This seems to be the start of Chinese-funded expansions, to include a dry-dock, pier, and slipway, that Cambodian defense minister Tea Banh discussed during a ground-breaking ceremony in June attended by China’s ambassador.
Since March, 12 new buildings have been constructed along the coast north of the new pier.
Across the road, major land clearing started at the end of June, covering 85 x 200 meters of previously undeveloped land, as well as a smaller area farther north.
A long strip also been cleared along the northeastern perimeter of the base.
This seems to anticipate the construction of a new road with regularly spaced buildings. This new clearing has also been connected to the road cutting east-west through the center of the base which was cleared last year. Land clearing has also begun at the western end of that road, behind the hospital on the eastern edge of the base.
Finally, at the southern end of the base, a new 40 x 15-meter building has been constructed, and roughly 75 x 100 meters of foundation has been laid down for the construction of more buildings to the south.
Originally published January 12, 2022:
Dredgers have been spotted off the coast of Cambodia’s Ream Naval base in government-released photos and satellite imagery. Dredging of deeper port facilities would be necessary for the docking of larger military ships at Ream, and was part of a secret agreement between China and Cambodia that U.S. officials reported seeing in 2019. That deal reportedly granted China military access to the base in return for funding facilities improvements. Cambodian officials have confirmed that China is funding construction at Ream, but maintain that there are no plans for Chinese military access.
A January 16 satellite image from commercial provider Maxar shows two clamshell dredgers just off the coast of Ream accompanied by barges for collecting the dredged sand.
Imagery from Planet Labs shows that both dredgers have remained fixed at these locations since their arrival, which took place between January 13-15. The dredgers were also visible in a photo posted to defense minister Tea Banh’s Facebook page following his January 18 visit to Ream. The photo was taken from the northern half of Ream and shows both clamshell dredgers operating behind another ship, which may be a suction dredger, docked along the coast. Another photo posted by the Secretary of Ream Naval Base shows Tea Banh and his entourage at the same location.
The extent of the planned dredging is unclear, but could mark a significant upgrade in the base’s capabilities. The shallow waters around Ream mean it is currently only able to host small patrol vessels. A deep-water port would make it far more useful to both the Cambodian and Chinese navies.
Construction work has also continued onshore at Ream. Several locations within the main administrative center in the southwest of the base have seen land clearing since AMTI’s last update in fall 2021. Clearing for roads and a possible fence near a Vietnam-funded hospital at the northeast of the base continues, and a small building and several concrete lots have been built along the coast.
Taken together, the scale of recent demolition and land clearing, and especially the new dredging activity, indicates that the base is being prepared for significant infrastructure upgrades.