A Chinese state-owned company will build the runway and airfield for Cambodia’s new international airport in Phnom Penh, whose entire US$1.5 billion price tag is being picked up by Beijing.

Metallurgical Corp. of China won the $405 million contract to design and construct the airfield, adding to its growing list of projects in Cambodia, including a controversial coastal development undertaken by Union Development Group.

Cambodia, which inches closer to Chinese puppet state by the month, has accepted billions of dollars in public and private from the Communist Party, which has been angling to replace a U.S. naval installation with its own.

The new 700-hectare Phnom Penh airport located about about 35 kilomters south of the capital in Kandal Province – part of a larger residential-commercial development spanning 2,600 hectares claimed from farmland and a reclaimed lake – is being overseen by Overseas Cambodia Investment Corp. which is run by Chinese-Khmer billionaire Pung Kheav Se.

Another Bejing-owned firm, China State Construction Engineering, is heavily entrenched in the new airport, which is being desired by Foster & Partners of the United Kingdom.

MCC will tab subsidiary Shanghai Baoye Group to build the 4,000-meter-long, 60-meter-wide runway, taxiway, apron and related facilities by 2022.

Phnom Penh’s existing airport, which opened a shiny new Japanese-built terminal less than two years ago, will remain open but dedicated to domestic flights, air cargo, state delegations and military use.

The bulk of the funding for the new airport comes from China Development Bank. The Chinese state-owned policy lender has committed $1.1 billion to the project.

Cambodian strongman Prime Minister Hun Sen said the new airport, set to open its first phase in 2023, is part of the government’s strategy to increase tourism.

As part of this strategy, another China-backed airport is being built in Siem Reap Province, home of the country’s famous Angkor Wat. Costing $880 million, it is largely funded by a Chinese consortium led by the China Development Bank and the Export-Import Bank of China.

China’s virtual ownership of the new airports will push out the last remnants of French occupation, as French-owned Cambodia Airports currently has the rights to run the existing Phnom Penh and Siam Reap airports until 2040. But the firm now looks to be on the way out.

The French firm, which also operates the Sihanoukville airport, might end up getting bought out of its contracts to give China full leeway.