The city, which was named in honour of former king Norodom Sihanouk, had a population of around 89,800 people and approximately 66,700 in its urban center in 2008. Sihanoukville city encompasses the greater part of six communes of Preah Sihanoukville Provinces. A relatively young city, it has evolved parallel to the construction of the Sihanoukville Autonomous Port, which commenced in June 1955, as the country's gateway to direct and unrestricted international sea trade. The only deep water port in Cambodia includes a mineral oil terminal and a transport logistics facility. As a consequence, the city grew to become a leading national center of trade, commerce, transport and process manufacturing.
Sihanoukville's many beaches and nearby islands make it Cambodia's premier seaside resort with steadily rising numbers of national visitors and international tourists since the late 20th century. As a result of its economic diversity, the region's natural beauty and the considerable recreational potential, a constantly increasing number of seasonal and permanent foreign residents make Sihanoukville one of the most culturally varied and dynamic population centers in Cambodia. As of 2014 the tourism sector remains insignificant in comparison with neighboring Thailand. Sihanoukville's future will largely be defined by the authorities' capability of a successfully balanced management in order to protect and conserve natural resources on the one hand and the necessities of urban and insular development, increasing visitor numbers, expanding infrastructure, the industrial sector and population growth on the other.
Despite being the country’s premier sea side destination, after decades of war and upheaval the town and its infrastructure remain very much disjointed and architecturally unimpressive. Infrastructure problems persist, in particular related to water and power supply, while international standard health facilities remain limited.
Sihanoukville also faces extreme challenges related to crime, security and safety with the city frequently being the focus of scandals linked to serious organized crime, petty crime and corruption.
The official name of the city in Khmer is: Krong (city) Preah (holy) Sihanouk (name of the former king), which adds up to: "City of the holy Sihanouk" or "Honorable Sihanouk City". King Norodom Sihanouk (reigned 1941-1955, 1993-2004) was and still is revered as father of the (modern) nation. The name "Sihanouk" is derived from Sanskrit through two Pali words: Siha (lion), and Hanu (jaws).
The alternative name, Kompong Saom (also romanized as Kompong Som and Kampong Som), (Khmer: កំពង់សោម) means "Port of the Moon" or "Shiva's Port". 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". The word Kampong or Kompong is of Malay origin and means village or hamlet. Its meaning underwent extension towards pier or river landing bridge.
Prior to the ports' and city's foundation works of 1955, the port of Kompong Som must have been only of regional significance - due to the absence of navigable waterways that connect the port with the kingdom's settlement centers. During the many centuries of pre-Angkorian and Angkorian history – from Funan to Chenla and during the Khmer Empire, regional trade was centered at O Keo (Vietnamese: Óc Eo) in the Mekong Delta, now the province of Rạch Giá in Vietnam. The township of Prei Nokor (Saigon) was a commercial center of the Khmer Empire. The Chronicle of Samtec Cauva Vamn Juon - one of the 18th and 19th century Cambodian Royal Chronicles - briefly mentions the region as the country was split into 3 parts during a 9-year civil war from 1476 to 1485: "In 1479, Dhammaraja took on the throne at Chatomuk (Phnom Penh) and controlled the provinces of Samraong Tong, Thbong, Kompong Saom, Kampot up to the Bassak, Preah Trapeang, Kramuon Sah, Koh Slaket and Peam"[mouth of the Mekong].
From the end of the seventeenth century, Cambodia lost control of the Mekong River route as Vietnamese power expanded into the lower Mekong. During the Nguyen-Siamese War (1717–18) a Siamese fleet burned the port of Kompong Som in 1717 but was defeated by the Vietnamese at Banteay Meas/Ha Tien. A Cambodian king of the late eighteenth century, Outey-Reachea III allied with a Chinese pirate, Mac-Thien-Tu, who had established an autonomous polity based in Ha Tien and controlled the maritime network on the eastern part of the Gulf of Thailand. Ha Tien was located at a point where a river linking to the Bassac River flows into the Gulf of Thailand. Landlocked Cambodia tried to keep its access to maritime trade through Ha Tien. In 1757 Ha Tien acquired the ports of Kampot and Kompong Som as a reward for Mac's military support to the King of Cambodia. Until its destruction in 1771 the port developed into an independent duty-free entrepot - linked with several Chinese trading networks.
Alexander Hamilton, who traveled on the Gulf of Thailand in 1720, wrote that "Kompong Som and Banteay Meas (later Ha Tien) belonged to Cambodia, as Cochin-China was divided from Cambodia by a river (Bassac river) of three leagues broad." and "King Ang Duong constructed a road from his capital of Oudong to Kampot". Kampot remained the only international seaport of Cambodia. "The traveling time between Udong and Kampot was eight days by oxcart and four days by elephants." French Résident Adhemard Leclère wrote: "...Until 1840s, the Vietnamese governed Kampot and Péam [Mekong Delta], but Kompong Som belonged to Cambodia. The Vietnamese constructed a road from Ha Tien to Svai village - on the border with Kompong-Som - via Kampot."
The British Empire followed a distinct policy by the 1850s, seeking to consolidate its influence. Eye witness reports give rare insights, as Foreign Secretary Lord Palmerston's agent John Crawfurd reports: "Cambodia was...the Keystone of our policy in these countries, - the King of that ancient Kingdom is ready to throw himself under the protection of any European nation...The Vietnamese were interfering with the trade at Kampot, and this would be the basis of an approach..." Palmerston concluded: "The trade at Kampot - one of the few remaining ports, could never be considerable, in consequence of the main entrance to the country, the Mekong, with all its feeders flowing into the Sea through the territory of Cochin China The country, too, had been devastated by recent Siam - Vietnam wars. Thus, without the aid of Great Britain, Kampot or any other port in Cambodia, can never become a commercial Emporium." Crawfurd later wrote: "The Cambodians... sought to use intervals of peace in the Siam - Vietnam wars to develop intercourse with outside nations. The trade at Kampot which they sought to foster was imperiled by pirates. Here is a point where the wedge might be inserted, that would open the interior of the Indo-Chinese Peninsula to British Commerce, as the great River of the Cambodians traverses its entire length and even affords communication into the heart of Siam".
Under French rule Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia became a single administrative and economic unit. The coastal region Circonscription Résidentielle with Kampot as its capital contained the Arrondissements of Kampot, Kompong Som, Trang and Kong-Pisey. The establishment of another international trading center near the existing city of Saigon was not considered necessary. Focus remained the Mekong and the idea to establish an alternative route to Chinese and Thai internal markets along an uninterrupted navigable waterway all the way south to the Mekong Delta.
An insurrection that took place from 1885 to 1887 further discouraged French ambition. It started in Kampot and quickly spread to Veal Rinh, Kampong Seila, and Kompong Som, where the insurgents were led by a Chinese pirate named Quan-Khiem. He managed to control the northern part of Preah Sihanouk for some time until he – an old man - was arrested by the local governor.
The most notable infrastructural improvements of this period were the construction of Route Coloniale No. 17, later renamed National Road No.3 and the national railway system, although work on the "Southern Line" - from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville - only began in 1960.
The city's and province's alternative name Kampong som (Kampong Som) was adopted from the local indigenous community. After the dissolution of French Indochina in 1954, it became apparent that the steadily tightening control of the Mekong Delta by Vietnam required a solution to gain unrestricted access to the seas. Plans were made to construct an entirely new deep-water port. Kompong Saom (Kampong Som) was selected for water depth and ease of access. In August 1955, a French/Cambodian construction team cut a base camp into the unoccupied jungle in the area that is now known as Hawaii Beach. Funds for construction of the port came from France and the road was financed by the United States.
During the Vietnam War the port became an intensive military facility on both sides, in the service of National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam and after 1970, under the government of Lon Nol, in the service of the United States.
The port was the last place to be evacuated by the US Army, only days before Khmer Rouge guerrillas took control of the government in April 1975. 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 of Koh Tang 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, the Ream Naval Base, an airfield, the railroad yard and the petroleum refinery in addition to strikes and naval gun fire on several islands.
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 new markets in 1999, the city regained its role in the economic growth of Cambodia.
In 1993, the Ream National Park was established per royal decree of former King Sihanouk.
The Sihanoukville Municipality was elevated to a regular province on 22 December 2008 after King Norodom Sihamoni signed a Royal Decree converting the municipalities of Kep, Pailin and Sihanoukville into provinces.
In 2006 the Koh Puos (Cambodia) Investment Group submitted an application, planning to invest $276 million in converting the 116-hectare Koh Puos - Snake island into a luxury residential - and resort complex. After the completion of certain elements of the infrastructure, the investor announced alterations of the original blueprints, as "Reapplying for permission will happen in 2014..." according to the Council of the Development of Cambodia.
On 26 May 2011 Preah Sihanouk area joined the Paris-based club Les Plus Belles Baies Du Monde (The most Beautiful Bays in the World). The organisation officially accepts the Bay of Cambodia as one of its members at the 7th General Assembly.
Sihanoukville town is located at the tip of the rolling hills of a peninsula at the Gulf of Thailand. To its North-West and at its center it rises up to 15 metres (49 ft) above sea level, whereas the land gently and steadily flattens towards extended coastal plains, marshlands and beaches in the South and South-East. These hills, that provide a great variety of housing ground, good perspectives on the coastal plains, the beaches, the rivers, the sea and the islands define the region's natural character and value. Another agreeable fact is the Gulf of Thailand's low depth and the local climate - very moderate in contrast to the South China sea to the East and the Indian ocean in the West, where taifuns and monsoonal extremes are permanent perils.
As a result of its clearly defined purpose, its very brief but turbulent history and its location, Sihanoukville is distinct from other urban centers in Cambodia. Established after the period of the French Protectorate, bourgeois colonial style quarters as in Kampot, Siem Reap or Phnom Penh do not exist. Architecture and street layout are subject to modern concepts of reduction and functionality. Famous Cambodian architect Vann Molyvann designed elegant objects, public buildings with a distinct function, some still operational. This brief era of New Khmer Architecture ended in 1970 - inconsistency and chaos during the long civil wars had far greater impact on the city's current image.
In 1959 the first urban plan for the city was completed for a population of 55,000 residents; it included cycle paths and green spaces. The plan also clearly marked out zoning for the port, the railway network, the town center with municipal offices, business and residential housing, and finally a tourist zone to the south along the beaches. A feasibility study by the United States Operations Mission (USOM) looked at drawing new water supply from the Prek Tuk Sap and existing lagoons; these were subsequently improved (cut off from the sea) and used as the initial source for town supply. The reservoirs are still operational, although insufficient for today's demands.
The years of turmoil that followed meant that little of the original plan was implemented. The current state of structural inconsistency is testimony to decades of upheaval as layout planning was by no means a subject of aesthetic considerations and applied sciences.
Beginning at the port, a moderate raster of streets spans up to the Weather Station Hill (Victory Hill) and along the local (Victory) beach. Between the National Bank complex and Victory beach pier is one of the very few spots in town, that give the impression to have been planned in advance. The area connects with the city's center along a single highway via typical irregular successions of residential buildings, bare of any distinct features and landmarks. These highways were designed to connect the very few and widely dispersed actual settlement foundations. The neighborhoods lack intimacy, due to a one-dimensional infrastructure. The city's center is a sequence of alternating single blocks of solid urban edifices, such as banks, middle-class hotels, gas stations, pharmacies, Chinese bakeries and electronic retailers followed by long rows of low-end food stalls, makeshift shops, motor-bike repair services, mini-markets, laundry, gas, lock-picker services and mobile phone shops.
Sihanoukville's beaches are one of the city's most valuable ecological and economic resource with varying degrees of commercial exploitation. The beaches listed in this section do not include any of the island's beaches.
Due to the proximity of the sea, mangroves line large parts of the rivers.
The mangrove lined Ou Trojak Jet river runs from Otres pagoda to Otres beach is Sihanoukville's longest river popular with both canoeists and stand up paddle boarders. In the tidal mangrove area barramundi, mangrove jacks and barracuda are the prize target for sport anglers, the lower section harbours a marina. Restaurants along the south bank of the river serve fresh seafood supplied by the local inshore fishing boats.
All the islands listed below fall under administration of Sihanoukville's Mittakpheap District. The majority is either in the process of or has been assigned for extensive touristic development. Koh Rong and Koh Rong Sanloem in particular have so far undergone years of non-coordinated and individually undertaken development. A number of guesthouses and bungalow resorts offers accommodation of greatly varying standard by the beaches or in the lush jungle. Despite the very moderate infrastructure, visitor numbers have risen quickly and Koh Rong has been declared a stop on the Banana Pancake Trail.
Sihanoukville lies in the Tropical monsoon (Am) climate zone. The city has two seasons: a wet season and a dry season.
The maximum mean is about 30 °C (86 °F) ; the minimum mean, about 24 °C (75 °F). Maximum temperatures of higher than 32 °C (90 °F), however, are common and, just before the start of the rainy season, they may rise to more than 38 °C (100 °F). Minimum night temperatures sporadically fall below 20 °C (68 °F). in January, the coldest month. May is the warmest month - although strongly influenced by the beginning of the wet season, as the area constitutes the easternmost fringe of the south-west monsoon. Tropical cyclones only rarely cause damage in Cambodia.
The total annual rainfall average ranges between 1,000 and 1,500 millimeters (39.4 and 59.1 in). The maximal amounts fall in August and September. Relative humidity is high throughout the entire year; usually exceeding 90 percent. During the dry season daytime humidity rates average around 50 percent or slightly lower, climbing to about 90 percent during the rainy season.
Sihanoukville was established to open an international marine gateway and as a result the local economy is largely defined by the imperatives of its deep water port and the nearby oil terminal. Attached is a regularly modernized cargo storage - and logistics facility which serves numerous shipping companies, freight forwarders, suppliers and maintenance contractors. All of these are based in the port's vicinity. The Phnom Penh - Sihanoukville transport corridor is the premier national trade route, accounting for about 75 percent of Cambodia’s trade traffic.
Other sizable economic sectors of the city are fishery, aqua-cultures and frozen shrimp processing, the garment industry, food production and processing, the constantly growing tourism industry with a noticeably developed service branch and the associated real estate market.
The Sihanoukville Special Economic Zone (SSEZ) is an overseas economic and trade cooperation zone which was designed to promote favorable market conditions such as: policy advantages, a safe political environment, favorable trade status, completed infrastructure supporting, low labor cost and excellent services, among others. In addition to its areas around the port, a sizable industrial center, exclusively composed of Chinese companies has been developed since around 2010.
Trading accounts for a high percentage of the city's economy as patterns have undergone development since the middle 1980s, when the Soviet Union heavily influenced Cambodia’s trade. The city imports many goods from Thailand, Hong Kong, Singapore and China while it exports goods to the United States, Canada, Germany and the United Kingdom. The city often re-exported many of the goods it imported such as electronics, cigarettes, vehicles and gold. Today, the city’s main export is garments, but it also produces and exports timber, logs, and rubber in small quantities.
Cambodia is one of the few Least Developed Countries (LDCs) to export over $2 billion. Since Cambodia became the first LDC to join the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2004, trade has steadily increased, and the U.S. has been Cambodia’s largest trading partner. Comparing to $2.3 billion of export to the U.S and $153 million of export to Cambodia in 2010, from January to October 2011, Cambodia’s exports to the U.S. were $2.29 billion and U.S. exports to Cambodia were $152.6 million.
Commercial banks located in Sihanoukville: Cambodia Commercial Bank, Union Commercial Bank, Cambodia Asia Bank, Cambodia Public Bank, Foreign Trade Bank
The City's development strategy focuses on tourism, port expansion, and industrial growth. Tourism development is expected to be an economic driver leading to the development of a national commercial center and is already producing rapid growth in the surrounding area. It is anticipated that the port, as a hub for the expansion of maritime transport, will attract additional industry. An industrial zone has been established that includes petrochemical production and food processing based on local fisheries and other elements. With new investments in these areas and associated development strategies, planners anticipate increased urbanization of Sihanoukville, alongside growing economic opportunities that will lead to migration from rural areas.
Foreign investment in Cambodia has increased significantly since 2004 led by Asian investors from countries such as Malaysia, China, Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam. Approved investment proposals by the Council for the Development of Cambodia totaled around $500 million in 2011.
The Sihanoukville Autonomous Port has an independent administration. In combination with the related logistics - and transport sector it is the city's economic backbone.
At present, the total operational land area of the Sihanoukville Autonomous Port is around 124.76 ha. The Old Jetty was constructed in 1956 and became operational in 1960. The jetty is 290 metres (950 feet) long by 28 metres (92 feet) wide and can accommodate 4 vessels with medium GRT at both sides. The exterior berth is −8.50 to −13 metres (−27.9 to −42.7 feet) depth, while the interior berth is −7.50 to −8.50 metres (−24.6 to −27.9 feet) depth.
In order to cope with the increasing rates of cargo throughput, the Royal Government of Cambodia had constructed another 350 m (1,148 ft) long new quay with −10.5 m (−34 ft) maximum draft in 1966. At present, this new quay can accommodate 3 vessels with −7 m (−23 ft) draft medium GRT. The construction of the Container Terminal, 400 m (1,312 ft) long by −10.5 m (−34 ft) depth and a 6.5 ha (16 acres) container yard was completed in March 2007.
The primary destinations of Sihanoukville Autonomous Port are: Singapore, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh, Shanghai, Laem Chabang, Yantian and Kaohsiung. It has a frequency of scheduled services of 38 per week.
Roads in Sihanoukville city are in relative good condition, although smaller streets, in particular in neighborhoods tend to be non-maintained dirt tracks, unless upgraded through the local communities' initiatives.
Cambodia follows the right-hand traffic. There is no formally adopted road and road transport policy in Cambodia, and this particularly affects urban road transport.
Although Cambodia's traffic laws are profoundly the same as those of any other country, with respect to the country's membership of the ASEAN, that requires recognition of ratified agreements, regular traffic only functions on a basic level and in times of low density. Conduct is still traditional as smaller and slower vehicles are expected to yield to big vehicles, usually driven by perceived wealthier and socially superior people. Nationwide, pedestrians have to walk beside the roads and are - again traditionally - considered poor, inferior and bare of any prerogative. Sidewalks in all cities are being completely occupied and obstructed by businesses and/or used as parking lots, rendering them completely useless - although not allowed according to article 5 of the General provisions of the Traffic Law: "Sidewalks are the roadsides in cities or towns, which are prepared for pedestrians. The sidewalks are not allowed for vehicles to park."
Law enforcement has been accused of failing to enforce international norms. A habit of running predictable checkpoints has developed over the last years. Tourists on rental bikes and common people are often stopped and forced to pay indiscreet sums, often based on mere assumptions and unsupported claims. Drivers of vehicles with perceived social status remain generally unmolested. Consequently, the educational effect of these activities is very low.
In all urban and residential areas an overabundance of motorbikes exists due to the absence of any form of public transportation and taxi-cars. For non-residential and inexperienced people Sihanoukville city remains unsafe for driving. Drivers of motorbikes often do not wear helmets, drive indiscriminately on any side of the street and it is common to see motorbikes with more than two passengers or vehicles driven by children and underaged people. Traffic lights are often ignored.
In 2008 the government ordered the countrywide enforcement of the use of helmets, but order was not thoroughly enforced.
The city does not have any form of public transportation. Local administration does issue transport licences for any individual of the informal urban transportation system of motor-taxis (moto-dups) and tuk-tuks. The system is not administered by authorities, as anybody can become a motor-taxi - or tuk-tuk driver. As a consequence, prices of services are ad-hoc, insurance non-existent and service quality varies considerable. The overwhelming majority of drivers do not have knowledge of street names and/or numbers.
The Sihanoukville International Airport, (KOS) formerly called Kang Keng Airport (ព្រលានយន្តហោះ កង កេង) named after the Minister of Health of the Khmer Republican regime during the 1970s. Airport is located in the Ream commune in central Sihanoukville province. It lies close to the National Highway No.4, only around 500 metres (1,600 feet) from the Ream beach on top a former filled in and drained mangrove lagoon, just about 18 kilometres (11 miles) from Sihanoukville City.
October 2014: Only international charter flights
The central long-distance bus station for all transport business operators is located on National Highway No. 4 in the city's north-east near the Autonomous Port. Transport business operators maintain booking offices in the urban centers.
Sihanoukville is served by many competing companies with daily scheduled services from and to all major population centers in Cambodia. Direct destinations are Phnom Penh, Koh Kong (city) and Kampot. Some companies offer services to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam and to Siem Reap near Angkor Wat. Buses operate from the early morning until the afternoon plus a daily night-bus/sleeper.
Privately operated taxi stands for long distance transportation are situated at the central bus station, in the commercial urban center and the tourist center in the South.
The last daily national official marine ferry service from/to Sihanoukville city to/from Krong Koh Kong ceased operation with the completion of National Highway 48 in 2007.
Koh Rong island and Koh Rong Sanloem island have daily ferry service.
Access to smaller islands is generally provided by local holiday resorts, Otres marina, dive operators or private operators. Additionally, small long-tail boats and medium size cruising boats can be individually hired for sightseeing, fishing, diving and drinking trips at Otres marina, guest-houses, travel agencies and diving operators.
Marina Oceania - the first marina in Cambodia operational and fully equipped since 2013 for yachts and boats up to 25 metres (82 feet) with 4-to-5-metre-deep (13-to-16-foot) berths for 20 boats. It is situated at the local port's pier, near Koh Preab island. (coordinates: 10° 39' 59" N / 103° 30' 41" E).
Holiday Cruise ships infrequently stop by at the port during their voyages in South-East Asia.
The moderate railway network of Cambodia was re-constructed for freight transport during the last years by Toll Holdings, which has obtained a building and maintenance concession from the Royal Cambodian Railway. The "Southern line", constructed 1960-1969 with a length of 264 km (164 mi), connects the Sihanoukville Port Special Economic Zone with the capital Phnom Penh.
Currently a weekend passenger train service runs from the station near the Autonomous Port used to manage passenger train transportation to Phnom Penh via Kampot
The 2008 census of Cambodia counted 89,846 inhabitants of Sihanoukville City and approximately 66,700 in its urban center.
The population of the city is apart from descendants of the indigenous inhabitants not older than 3 generations as the product of recent history, such as the Cambodian diaspora and Cambodian humanitarian crisis of and after the Pol Pot era. Historic events which led to demographic upheavals in Cambodia are evident in the demographic trends of the city. With the arrival of displaced refugees, in subsequent decades and centuries, a non-Khmer, mixed Asian population grew to a high percentage of the total population in the core population in urban areas.
In addition to Khmer, ethnic groups like Vietnamese, Chinese, Cham, Thai, Korean, French, British, Europeans, Australians and Americans live in the urban area. Due to its status as an international port, high volume and density of commerce and the impact of the service sector related to the tourist industry, Krong Preah Sihanouk has a relative high Human Development Index (HDI)of 0.750, compared to the national average HDI of 0.523.
Cambodia still has one of the worst health statuses in Asia, although the situation is slowly changing for the better. The public health system has suffered from war and neglect and has had serious difficulties meeting the health needs of the population. Some government hospitals and other health units have been rehabilitated so that they are autonomous entities, staffed with qualified personnel. This has led to a significant increase in the utilization of health services. At the same time, modern standard private clinics, including local and foreign service providers, are increasing in number and are competing with State-owned hospitals.
Sanitation practices in rural Cambodia are often primitive. The water supply is the main problem; rivers and streams are common sources of drinking water and of water for cooking. These water sources are often the same ones used for bathing, washing clothes, and disposing of waste products. Adequate sewage disposal is nonexistent in most rural and suburban areas.
Local pharmacies provide a limited supply of prescription medications, but the quality of locally obtained medications varies greatly. Counterfeit medication is readily available and might be indiscernible from authentic medication, and can be potentially dangerous.
"All travelers to Cambodia should be up-to-date with their routine immunizations and should be protected against hepatitis A and B and typhoid fever."
Hospitals/ Clinics with emergency service
Sihanoukville also faces extreme challenges related to crime, security and safety with the city frequently being the focus of scandals linked to serious organized crime, petty crime and corruption.
The police force, especially the traffic police, have often been shown to be corrupt and ineffective in the city and newspaper investigations have uncovered connections to organized crime and drug trafficking.
Embassies and consular officials have issued cautionary statements about travel to Sihanoukville following gang disputes and a number of high profile murders, rapes and robberies as well as a number of unexplained deaths of foreigners.
Like many towns and cities in Southeast Asia with sub-standard security and judicial systems, Sihanoukville has also been an attractive target for foreign criminals to hide and engage in nefarious activities. Russian tycoon Sergei Polonsky A number of other criminals, including murderers, gangsters, pedophiles and fraudsters have also taken refuge in the coastal city.
The majority of municipal inhabitants are of East-Asian descent, who profoundly characterize and influence local customs, moral, commerce, cuisine and tradition based on Pan-East-Asian beliefs and ideas. Cambodian culture is of distinct ancient Khmer origin, accompanied by century-old moderate Chinese and Vietnamese cultural influences. The prolonged presence of foreign and in particular Westerners in Cambodia and Sihanoukville town contributes to a noticeable varied, modern, multi-cultural manifestation, which is increasingly influenced by modern media.
The citizens of Sihanoukville city celebrate all religious, traditional and secular festivities such as 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 monks), 8 January (Day of Cambodian - Vietnamese Friendship) among others.
Many urban families of Chinese or Sino-Khmer descent in Sihanoukville city have for most of Cambodia's history constituted the commercial elite and urban upper classes. Besides the expressed Buddhist faith there is a strong dedication to Confucian work ethics, on commercial conduct and trade procedures while family bonds are very strong.
With more than 150 regular hotels in all price-categories among an undisclosed number of guest-houses, Sihanoukville can easily handle current visitor quota and can generally cope with all standard demands. As of 2016, the islands have a more than ample supply of accommodation, ranging from budget guest-houses and bungalows, to an international 5-star resort. Despite these factors, the city and its region are still considered to be under-explored by foreign tourists. In order to satisfactorily manage the future increase of visitors, Sihanoukville's infrastructure requires large-scale upgrades.
The city has a constantly changing, but large number and variety of restaurants and bars. Fresh seafood, especially crab, prawns and ocean fish are common. Due to the ease in which foreigners can set up business there is also a wide variety of places offering foreign cuisines - with the exception of Africa, the nations of all the continents are well represented. There are Western bakeries (3), BBQ Restaurants (7), Vegetarian Restaurans (5), cafés and coffee shops (17), espresso coffee shops (8) and countless bars and pubs (over 250).
As a tropical sea-side resort, Sihanoukville’s night life is heavily influenced and characterized by the city's large number of beaches. All along the central tourist area between the Golden Lion Plaza and the Ochheuteal/Serendipity Beaches are international and Western styled night bars, live music venues and all-night beach discothèques.
Most young Cambodians generally prefer to frequent classic style night-clubs with air-conditioning, lavish interiors and which are dedicated to more traditional ways of service procedures and cultural expression.
At Weather Station (Victory) Hill, bar operators tend to adopt certain traditional Asian and local elements of recreational services. Many Westerners consider these establishments as clearly part of the sex industry. With respect to the fact that prostitution is illegal, bar operators publicly avoid procedures that violate local ethic standards.
Sihanoukville is the capital city of Sihanoukville province and is governed by its deputy governor. Sihanoukville occupies the greater part of four of the five communes or Sangkat (Sangkat Muoy Commune, Sangkat Pi Commune, Sangkat Bei Commune, Sangkat Buon Commune) of Sihanoukville provinces' Mittakpheap District. The port has its own autonomous administration. The Sangkats are divided into 19 villages.
The Sihanoukville Autonomous Port lies within Sangkat 1 with an area of around 124.76 hectares (308.3 acres). The port is located 18 kilometres (11 mi) from the Kaong Kang Airport and 4 kilometres (2.5 miles) from Sihanoukville town centre. Ships' passengers are allowed to visit Sihanoukville town. The terminal itself offers apart from toilets, no further services, such as shopping centers, banking facilities or tourist offices,.
Kampong Seila district, which belonged to Koh Kong Province has, per Royal decree, been transferred to Sihanoukville Province in January 2009: "The administrative boundaries of Preah Sihanouk municipality and Koh Kong province shall be adjusted by sub-dividing land from Kampong Seila district in whole and partial land of Sre Ambil district in Koh Kong province to Preah Sihanouk municipality." Officials were assigned to create a National Workshop - also in relation to other provinces - and process all necessary administrative tasks. The National Institute of Statistics of Cambodia refers in its most recent and preliminary studies to a successful integration of the district, including maps, although official statistics and numbers are expected to come with the next full report. Preah Sihanouk Province's new official domain has incorporated Kompong Seila district.
Theravada Buddhism is state religion in Cambodia, with the pagoda as the traditional spiritual center of the community. The most prominent pagodas in the city:
Sihanoukville city is also home to minor communities of other religions such as: Catholics, Muslims, Protestants and Taoists. Places of worship:
Public spending on education in Cambodia, totaled 2.60% (of GDP) as of 2010.
Cambodian general education is based on the national school curriculum that consists of:
The basic education curriculum is divided into three cycles of three years each. The first cycle (grade 1–3) consists of 27–30 lessons per week lasting 40 minutes which are allocated to five main subjects. The second cycle (grade 4-6) consists of the same number of lessons but is slightly different. The third cycle (grade 7-9) consists of 32-35 lessons which are allocated for 7 major subjects.
The upper secondary education curriculum consists of two different phases. The curriculum for the first phase (grade 10) is identical to the third cycle of primary education. The second phase (grade 11-12) has two main components: Compulsory and electives.
The total adult literacy rate of Sihanoukville is 95.37%.
The city has experienced shortages of teachers but the situation has improved during the last decade. The 2004 statistics 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 students in private schools. (see also chart below)
Unicef reports: Increase in reach and sustainability of children learning in relevant, inclusive and quality early childhood and basic education through increased institutional capacities.
Private educational institutes in Sihanoukville