Formal regulation of civil aviation in Cambodia goes back to the point at which Cambodia became a signatory nation of the International Convention on Civil Aviation in 1953, and adopted French regulations on a temporary basis in 1954 until national regulation could be developed and applied. Responsibility for regulation of civil aviation became a function of the Ministry of Public Works and Communications. Regulatory responsibility for civil aviation has been maintained by the Government of Cambodia ever since, with a brief interruption in the mid-to-late 1970's during the period of internal civil disruption.
In the fifty-two years that have passed since that time, responsibility for regulation of civil aviation has been based in different ministries of the Government of Cambodia, finally evolving into the present regulatory agency, the State Secretariat for Civil Aviation, which reports directly to the Council of Ministers.
Development of civil aviation activity and the civil aviation infrastructure, such as the nation’s airports and air traffic management system, has moved forward, particularly in the last 15 years. Several important and significant changes have occurred during this period. The primary international airport of Cambodia, Phnom Penh International Airport, was upgraded and its operation and further upgrading placed under a long-term Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) concession with a private sector investors (the Société Concessionaire de l'Aéroport (SCA) French 70% / 30% Malaysian-Cambodian Consortium). The same process occurred with the Siem Reap International Airport, the gateway to the national's primary tourist attraction of Angkor Wat, for which a concession was also granted to SCA by the Royal Government of Cambodia for the operation and upgrading of that airport. Private sector interests also acquired exclusive rights to upgrade and operate two domestic airports at Kampong Chhnang and Sihanouk Ville, with these concessions being related to the specific commercial intentions of the investors.
In late 2000, the Government of Cambodia granted a concession to SAMART Corporation to operate and upgrade the air traffic control and air navigation system of Cambodia under a long-term concession.
Aviation is a fast growing industry, globally and regionally. Its growth in Cambodia in recent years has been remarkable, and it has the promise to grow steadily over the next ten years, by which time other modes of transport would also have developed. Aviation is considered as a strategic factor of production, core to the process of social and economic development and poverty reduction due to its dual role as a traded service and as a vehicle for trade in other service sectors. An efficient civil aviation sector will not only facilitate transportation of passengers and cargo in the shortest possible time, but will also indirectly help to increase trade, tourism, national and regional incomes, enhance social networks and bring about other national and regional benefits.