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Evictees Begin to Leave Phnom Penh’s Crumbling ‘White Building’


The building became an iconic Phnom Penh landmark after it was designed by Van Molyvann in the 1960s as low-cost, attractive social housing.

More than 80 families living in the iconic White Building in central Phnom Penh have left after agreeing compensation deals with the Japanese company set to develop the site.

Families living in the run-down building have until July 6 to leave the premises after settling deals with Arakawa, which will spend some $80 million redeveloping the site.

One resident, Choub Ly, 63, said she had been offered $20,000 for her 15-square-meter apartment.

Most of the residents have agreed to sell after resisting pressure to relocate for years, but now only a few hold outs remain.

“If the majority decided to sell, I would follow suit. If they had disagreed, I would have disagreed. I go with the flow. I can’t live there alone in the future so I accepted their offer,” she said.

Another resident, Yang Bunthan, 68, said he would miss the building, which became an iconic Phnom Penh landmark after it was designed by Van Molyvann in the 1960s as low-cost, attractive social housing.

Over the past several years numerous attempts have been made by the authorities to encourage the residents to move on.

“I’ll miss this place because I’ve lived here for 38 years,” Bunthan said. “But the company contacted me to negotiate an agreement, so I decided to sell.”

Chum Sakorn, one of the last remaining residents who has decided not to sell up, said she and a handful of her neighbors were demanding $2,000 per square meter as house prices in the city meant accepting less would mean she was unable to afford a new home for her family and pay for her children and grandchildren to go to school.

Officials from the ministry of land management could not be reached, but one official visiting the site claimed that the company had paid residents $46 million.

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