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Krong Preah Sihanouk
Kompong Som/Kampong Saom
Provincial Municipality
Ochheuteal Beach
Ochheuteal Beach
Nickname(s): The Coastal City
Map of Cambodia highlighting Sihanoukville Province
Map of Cambodia highlighting Sihanoukville Province
Sihanoukville is located in Cambodia
Location of Sihanoukville in Cambodia
Coordinates: 10°38′N 103°30′E / 10.633°N 103.500°E / 10.633; 103.500Coordinates: 10°38′N 103°30′E / 10.633°N 103.500°E / 10.633; 103.500
Country  Cambodia
Official 1964
Provincial status 2008
 • Governor H.E. Sbong Sarath
 • Total 868 km2 (335 sq mi)
Population (2008)[1]
 • Total 199,902
 • Density 230/km2 (600/sq mi)
  Provincial population
Human Development Index
 • HDI Increase0.750 (high)
Time zone UTC+07
Dialing code +855
ISO 3166 code KH-18
Districts 3
Communes 22

Sihanoukville (Khmer: ក្រុងព្រះសីហនុ - Krong Preah Sihanouk), also known as Kompong Som or Kampong Saom, is a province (khaet) of Cambodia on the Gulf of Thailand. The provincial capital, also called Sihanoukville, is a port city and growing urban center located 185 kilometres (115 mi) southwest of Phnom Penh, the national capital. The province is named after former king Norodom Sihanouk and grew up around the construction of the Sihanoukville Port which began in June 1955 and became the only deep water port in Cambodia.[2] Sihanoukville's beaches are a popular tourist destination.[3]

The province is served by Sihanoukville International Airport, 18 kilometres (11 mi) from downtown, although it has a limited commercial operation. The airport currently has limited passenger flight between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh on Cambodia Angkor Air.

In addition to the Port and tourism, several NGOs and foreign and national investors in the last years have contributed to the growth of the province not only as its function as an international sea port[4] but also to other sectors, namely textiles and real estate.[5] Sihanoukville is also the location of the main production plant for Cambodia's national beer, Angkor Beer.

Sihanoukville was the place of the last official battle of the United States Army in the Vietnam War, although the incident took place outside Vietnam. The Mayaguez incident of 12–15 May 1975 involved US forces and the Khmer Rouge. Currently, divers at Koh Tang, one of the Sihanoukville islands where the major battle to free the USS Mayaguez took place, can see two shipwrecks on the sea floor 40 metres (130 ft) down.[6]

Sihanoukville municipality was elevated to a province on 22 December 2008 after King Norodom Sihamoni signed a Royal Decree changing the municipalities of Kep, Pailin and Sihanoukville into provinces, as well as adjusting several other provincial borders.[7]

Origin of the name[edit]

The province, literally "Honorable Sihanouk City", honors the name of former king Norodom Sihanouk (reigned 1941-1955, 1993-2004) who was known in Cambodia as the Father of the Nation,.[8] Internationally it is written Sihanoukville. The name "Sihanouk" is derived from Sanskrit through two Pali words: Siha (lion), and Hanu (jaws).

The former name, Kompong Saom (also romanized as Kompong Som and Kampong Som), (Khmer: កំពង់សោម) means "Port of the Moon" or "Shiva's Port".[9] Saom is derived from the Sanskrit word "saumya", the original (Rig Vedic) meaning of which was "Soma, the juice or sacrifice of the moon-god", but evolved into Pali "moon", "moonlike" "name of Shiva".[10]


The modern province and its capital were founded in 1960 after independence from France, in order to provide Cambodia with a sea port for international trade. The project was undertaken and overseen by the government of then-Prime Minister and Prince, Norodom Sihanouk.

The construction of the port began in 1955, in part due to the Vietnamese tightening their control over the Mekong Delta (made possible by the waning power of the French) which restricted river access to Cambodia. Most of the families of those involved remained near the port, effectively becoming the first inhabitants.

During the Vietnam War the port became an intensive military facility, first in the service of National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam and after 1970, under the government of Lon Nol, at the service of the United States.

After the Khmer Rouge guerrillas taking control of the government in April 1975, the port was the last place to be evacuated by the US Army. The events surrounding the taking of the US container ship SS Mayaguez and its crew on 12 May by the Khmer Rouge and the subsequent rescue operation by US Marines played out on the waters and islands off the coast of Sihanoukville. During the two days of action, the US commenced air strikes on targets on the mainland of Sihanoukville including the port, Ream Naval Base and airfield, the railroad yard and petroleum refinery in addition to strikes and naval gun fire on the islands.[11]

After the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime in 1979 and the subsequent opening of the economy, the port of Sihanoukville resumed its importance in the development and recovery of the country. With the further opening of markets in 1999, the province became one of the main areas of economic growth of Cambodia.


Tourists at Serendipity Beach

Sihanoukville is located in the south of Cambodia. It is 230 kilometres (143 mi) southwest of Phnom Penh on a small peninsula.. Untouched beaches and surrounding tropical islands are the main feature that attracts national and foreign visitors. A small archipelago is embedded by the Sihanoukville Bahia off its south and west coast. The commercial and international port is located at the north west. The limits of its territory: North and West Koh Kong province, East Kampot province and the southern Sea of Cambodia.

Beaches that line the west contour of the city from north to south are Victory Beach, Lamherkay Beach, Koh Pos Beach, Independence Beach, Sokha Beach, Serendipity Beach, Ochheuteal Beach and Otres Beach. The most popular beaches are Ochheuteal, Sokha, Independence and Victory. Tourists can take water taxis to the nearby islands for diving, snorkeling, and game fishing.

The peninsula is separated from the central plains of Cambodia by the Damrei Mountains, especially the Bokor. The city is also besides the Ream National Park (210 km2) and it includes the islands of Koh Thmei and Koh Sei.[12]

Being a rather small province, Sihanoukville has two main urban centers: the Sihanoukville city itself and the Prey Nob District, 46 kilometers from Sihanoukville downtown to the north. The city is connected to Phnom Penh by National Road No. 4; to Kampot Province by NR 3 and to Koh Kong Province by NR 48.

Town centre
The town centre is located between surrounding hills roughly in the centre of the peninsula. It contains the banks, the market and other businesses. The post office and the bus station are located some distance towards the port.


Clear shoreline of Bamboo Island
  • Ochheuteal Beach and Serendipity Beach: Ochheuteal Beach is a long and narrow strip of beach lined with Casuarina and Tamarisk trees, grass umbrellas, rental chairs and little drink huts as well as bigger restaurants and night-time party spots. The northern section has become known as Serendipity Beach and is a popular beach with western tourists, noted for small guesthouse rooms right on the beach. Aside from these guest houses on the beach there are around 30 beach huts serving good value meals and a wide selection of drinks. The sustainability of the Occheuteal beach was a primary consideration of various stakeholders, which brought about the development of a tourism development and management plan in 2005.[13]
  • Otres Beach: Beyond a small headland at the south end of Ochheuteal is Otres Beach, which is far less developed and commercial and known for its long stretch of clean white sands.
  • Sokha Beach: Sokha Beach is located just west of Serendipity Beach. This beach is privately owned by Sokha Beach Hotel, the first five-star luxury beach hotel in Cambodia. It provides many facilities with a wide white sandy beach, but hotel guards may prevent visitors who are not guests from going on to the beach.
  • Independence Beach: Independence Beach is located next to Sokha Beach on its west. The beach was named after the old Independence Hotel. This beach offers a good stretch of clean sand. Situated at the northern end of the beach is Independence Hotel and Koh Pos Beach with a tiny island only 800m off the coast. Koh Pos is known for its rock strewn shoreline.
  • Victory Beach: Victory beach is situated at the furthest north of the peninsula of Sihanoukville. It was the original backpacker beach and is still popular with budget travelers. At the northern end of the beach is located the deep sea port. Apart from white sand and blue sea, this beach offers a good spot to enjoy the sunset.

At the south end of Victory Beach is another small strand of sand called Lamherkey Beach. It is the place where a French/ Cambodian construction team laid groundwork for the construction of the new Port of Kampong Som during the 1950s. At this beach, one can hire a boat to nearby islands.


There are more than a dozen islands off the coast of Sihanoukville for tourists to hop around. Only some of them have been so far developed for overnight stays. Many guesthouses, travel agencies and restaurants on Ochheuteal and Serendipity beaches offer trips and packages to some of these islands.

  • Koh Russei: Also known as the Bamboo Island. This medium sized island is located a few kilometers out from Otres Beach or Ream. There is a small navy base and some beach bungalows.
  • Koh Rong: Situated west of the Sihanoukville coast. It offers a fantastic strand of beach on its southwest, stretching about 5 kilometres (3 mi). It has fresh water resources on the island and a bustling fishing community on the southeast with basic supplies including fresh water, fish and crab.
  • Koh Rong Sanloem: A bit smaller than Koh Rong and situated on its south. Beautiful beaches are on the east coast, where a large heart-shaped bay with some shellfish cultivation is located, and on the north shoreline facing Koh Rong. The marine life around Koh Rong Sanloem is very diverse and offers some amazing diving.
  • Koh Tang: Located quite far from the main shoreline of Sihanoukville. Going there requires trippers to stay overnight on board. It offers interesting diving spots most of which are not frequently explored. The island is home to a military outpost and travelers should expect to be boarded by military personnel when out at the island.
  • Koh Pos: Also known as Morakot Island or Snake Island. This island is 800 metres (2,625 ft) off of Victory Beach. It is under development by Russian investors to become a luxury holiday destination.[14] It was linked to the mainland with a bridge in July 2011. The bridge is not currently open for traffic.
  • Koh Dek Koul: This small private island is 7 kilometres (4 mi) off from Victory Beach. The luxurious Russian owned Mirax Resort is located on this island.


Angkor Beer bottles

The economy of Sihanoukville is based primarily in its port for import and exports to the national economy. It has also an oil container port and cargo facilities. Other activities in the economy of the province include fishing, aquaculture, agriculture, mining, oil, factories (frozen shrimp processing, garment and Angkor Beer), real estate and tourism.[15]

In the last years the increasing of tourism has improved the construction of hotels and tourism infrastructures in the province. Foreign and national investment has been proven by the presence of newcomers to the city.


Roads and streets[edit]

  • Ekareach Street: The main street of the town. It runs from near the port through the town center to Golden Lions roundabout near the Ochheuteal Beach.
  • NR4: Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville are connected by the National Road 4. The road has been built especially for the transport of merchandise between the capital and the port by heavy trucks and containers. It has three toll stations along. However, it is considered the most dangerous road of Cambodia due to several traffic accidents and little control by authorities.[16]
  • NR3: Connects Sihanoukville with Kampot province. The road joins the NR4 at Prey Nob district. It is paved and in a relatively good condition, but poor in traffic signs. Cambodia has not control over cattle and it walks freely over the roads.
  • NR48: Connects Sihanoukville and Phnom Penh with Koh Kong Province, at the southwest of Cambodia. The road joins also the Thai-Cambodian border. There used to be several ferry crossings over the rivers along the route but nowadays they have been replaced by bridges.
Taxi motorbike drivers (Moto-dups) waiting customers at Veal Renh Market, Sihanoukville.

Streets in Sihanoukville downtown are mostly in a good condition. However, the traffic in the city does not follow rules and the enforcement of international norms is poor. Cambodia follows the right-hand traffic. There is an overabundance of motorbikes due to the lack of bus urban transportation and taxis. The city is considered unsafe for driving: drivers of motorbikes do not use helmets, they use any lane of the street, most of them do not use mirrors and it is common to see motorbikes with more than two passengers or motorbikes driven by children and underage people.[17] In 2008 the government ordered the enforcement of the use of helmets wide the country, but the norm is not yet followed.[18]

The city does not have a public transportation system. Therefore, there is an informal urban transportation system of motor-taxis (moto-dups) and tuk-tuks. That system is not controlled by authorities, and anybody can become a motor-taxi or tuk-tuk driver in Sihanoukville. As a consequence, there is no price control of services. It is recommended that foreign visitors confirm prices before using any of these services and ask advice from tourist agencies and hotels.[19]


The Sihanoukville International Airport is located 18 kilometres away from Sihanoukville downtown, along the NR4.


The bus station is located outside of the center of the town, towards the port. There are many competing companies running a frequent service from/to Phnom Penh. Other direct destinations include Koh Kong and Kampot. Some companies offer services to Ho Chi Minh City and Siem Reap through a connection in Phnom Penh.

Long distance taxi[edit]

Taxis for long distance transportation are available at the bus station as well as opposite to the main market.


Wooden pier near Sihanoukville

There used to be a daily boat service from/to Koh Kong but nowadays it only runs occasionally during the tourist seasons. This is because the road connection to Koh Kong was improved and the bus is now faster, safer and cheaper than the old boats.

Small long-tail boats and medium size cruising boats can be hired for sightseeing, fishing, diving and drinking trips at most beaches and at the fishing port. Bookings can be made through guesthouses, travel agencies and diving operators.

Occasionally massive cruise ships dock at the port during their voyages in Southeast Asia.

In October 2013 in the harbor of the port of Sihanoukville opened the first in the history of Cambodia yachting marina - marina Oceania. Marina is located on the harbor breakwater island of Koh Preab (Koh Prib).


There is a railway link to Phnom Penh via Kampot. The train station is located near the port. The line is currently under construction by Toll Holdings which has a concession to the line.


In 2008 there were 199,902 persons living in Sihanoukville province.[20]

The main ethnic group is the Khmer ethnic group. There are many other groups like Vietnamese, Chinese, Cham, Thai, French, British, Korean and Americans, especially because of its status as a port and a tourist destination. Krong Preah Sihanouk have a high Human Development Index (HDI)of 0.750 in average, compared to the nation HDI of 0.523.[21]


Yeay Mao, a guardian spirit is venerated especially in the Sihanoukville province

The Cambodian culture is predominantly Khmer. But the presence of several other ethnic groups in Sihanoukville makes that the province has a lot cultural manifestations.

The people of Sihanoukville celebrate the traditional feasts of Cambodia and other festivities like Cambodian New Year (April), Chinese New Year (between January and February), Water Festival (November), Pchum Ben (honor to the ancestors in October) and Kathen Ceremony (offerings to the bonzis).

The ethnic and minority religious groups celebrate Christmas Day (25 December) and Holy Week for the Catholics, Ramadan for the Muslims, Valentine's Day and the International New Year (31 December).

The inhabitants of Sihanoukville dedicate especially to commerce, fishing, agriculture and industry. It is used that families visit the beaches and waterfalls at the weekends. Generally, people from Sihanoukville are friendly and they are used to visitors from other Cambodian provinces and foreigners.


USS Gary docked in Sihanoukville Port

For administrative purposes Sihanoukville is a municipality, holding the same status as a province. There is a provincial governor and three deputy governors. It is subdivided into 3 districts (Khan). The port has an autonomous administration.[22] The districts are divided in communes (22 communes in total).

ISO Code District Romanization Population Communes Villages
1801 មិត្តភាព Mittakpheap 67,440 5 19
1802 ព្រៃនប់ Prey Nob 75,142 14 65
1803 ស្ទឹងហាវ Stueng Hav 13,108 3 10


The Sihanoukville Autonomous Port was finished in 1960 as the international sea port of Cambodia. It has an area 290 meters long per 28 meters wide. It has an exterior berth 8.50 to 13 meters depth and 7.50 to 8.50 meters depth in the interior. Four medium vessels can be at the port.[22]

The port is located 18 kilometers/11 miles from the Kang Keng Airport and 4 kilometers/2 miles from Sihanoukville downtown. Ships passengers are allowed to visit downtown. The terminal itself has not shopping center, banking or tourist offices, but only toilets.[23]

It is allegedly the place where two of the three allegedly captured US marines from the Mayagüez incident on Koh Tang island were held before they were executed.[24]


As 2004, there were 27 pagodas in the province with a population of 1,918 bonzes.[25] Pagodas are important for the Cambodian culture as a center of villages and cities. Some of the most important pagodas in the province:

  • Upper Pagoda: It is also known as "Wat Chotynieng", or "Wat Lue". Located in a hill that overlooks Sihanoukville town is dedicated to Prince Chourn Nath, Cambodian Buddhist leader.
  • Down Pagoda: It is also known as "Wat Krom". Located in Sihanoukville downtown. It is dedicated to Yeay Mao, a southern Cambodia divinity.
  • Ream Pagoda: It is located in the Ream commune, near the Ream Naval Base.

Sihanoukville has other minority religious groups like Catholics, Muslims (Cham), Protestants and Animists. Other places of worship:

  • St. Michael's Church: It belongs to the Catholic communities. There is a celebration for faithful visitors to the port in English every Sunday evening. The church was built in 1960 by sailors and it is located in the same hill of Upper Pagoda, facing the port.
  • Iber Bikhalifah Mosque: It belongs to the Muslim communities. It is located in downtown, just in the popular Leu Market.


The city has not yet a big cover in education, but it is improving in the last decade. The 2004 statistics[25] show the following centers of education: 33 pre-schools with 1,670 children, 52 primary schools with 34,863 students, 5 colleges with 4,794 students; 2 high schools with 1,449 students; 10 vocational training with 961 students and 13,728 private schools.

Some private educational institutes have been opened in Sihanoukville: Life University, University of Management and Economics, Built Bright University, Khmer Technology and Management, Don Bosco Technical School and Don Bosco Hotel School.

Sister cities[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "General Population Census of Cambodia 2008 - Provisional population totals" (PDF). National Institute of Statistics, Ministry of Planning. 3 September 2008. 
  2. ^ Philpotts, Robert (March 2006). A Port for Independence. England: Blackwater Books. p. 18. 
  3. ^ "Introducing Sihanoukville". Lonely Travel. Retrieved 5 February 2009. 
  4. ^ "Cambodia, Sihanoukville Autonomous Port". Retrieved February 5, 2009. 
  5. ^ [1][dead link]
  6. ^ Cambodia in the Early 21st Century: Islands of Sihanoukville: Koh Tang, page 669, Royal Government of Cambodia, Phnom Penh, February 2004. ISBN 2-9513524-0-9
  7. ^ Posted by Khmerization (2008-12-31). "Decree creates three new provinces". Retrieved 2012-06-11. 
  8. ^ Cat Barton (September 7, 2007). "Cambodia: King Father Sihanouk holds ECCC at bay". Asian Human Rights Commission. Retrieved February 5, 2008. 
  9. ^ Headly, Robert K.; Chhor, Kylin; Lim, Lam Kheng; Kheang, Lim Hak; Chun, Chen. 1977. Cambodian-English Dictionary. Bureau of Special Research in Modern Languages. The Catholic University of America Press. Washington, D.C. ISBN 0-8132-0509-3
  10. ^ "View Dictionary". Retrieved 2014-03-07. 
  11. ^ US Department of Defense document "History of the Pacific Air Forces 1 July 1974-31 Dec 1975". p 426. accessed 24 Nov 2013
  12. ^ "Cambodian National Parks". Retrieved 5 February 5, 2009. 
  13. ^ "". Retrieved 2012-06-11. 
  14. ^ "Cambodia in Focus : Developing Tourist Resorts Islands". Retrieved 2014-03-07. 
  15. ^ Economic Activities, pages 662-664, "Cambodia in the Early 21st Century", Royal Government of Cambodia. Phnom Penh, 2004, ISBN 2-9513524-0-9
  16. ^ "Travel Guide for Sihanoukville". Retrieved February 5, 2009. 
  17. ^ "Cambodia: more deaths on the roads than in minefields". International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescents. September 20, 2007. Retrieved February 5, 2009. 
  18. ^ Sok Khemara, Voa Khmer (January 3, 2009). "Police begin enforcement". Retrieved February 5, 2009. 
  19. ^ "Getting Around Sihanoukville". Retrieved February 5, 2009. 
  20. ^ "General Population Census of Cambodia 2008 - Provisional population totals". National Institute of Statistics, Ministry of Planning. September 3, 2008. 
  21. ^ Normal Template, [2]. Retrieved 2012.
  22. ^ a b Introduction "The Sihanoukville Autonomous Port (PAS)". Retrieved February 5, 2009. 
  23. ^ Cruise Asean: The Autonomous Port of Sihanoukville, APS
  24. ^ [3][dead link]
  25. ^ a b Structure of Sihanoukville Municipality, pag. 670, "Cambodia in the Early 21st Century", Royal Government of Cambodia. Phnom Penh, 2004, ISBN 2-9513524-0-9

External links[edit]