White Building Residents Say Move-Out Deadline Pushed

The few remaining families left inside Phnom Penh’s White Building have been given a reprieve after Land Management Ministry officials apparently extended a deadline for those holding out to leave their homes, according to a resident on Tuesday.

At least a dozen people on Tuesday were still living on the bottom floor of the low-income housing complex located in central Phnom Penh, and some had no plans to move.

Homes and shops on the bottom floor of Phnom Penh’s White Building stand boarded-up last month. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

One of the holdouts, Kem Srey Pov, said she had spoken with ministry officials two days ago when they visited her home, adding that they had extended the previous move-out deadline of July 6.

“They said [July] 15, we would have to leave,” Ms. Srey Pov said on Tuesday. “But I still need money to get a new house.”

It remains unclear what action the ministry would take once the deadline passes.

The White Building was declared unsafe in 2014 by then-municipal governor Pa Socheatvong. In October last year, it was announced that Japanese developer Arakawa would demolish the complex and build an $80 million, 21-story mixed-use building in its place.

Months of negotiation ended with a final compensation offer of $1,400 per square meter in May. Most residents have accepted the ministry’s offer and began moving out on June 6, but a handful of families have refused.

“I don’t know yet what I’ll do,” said Huot Chanthoeun, a 34-year-old who has lived in the White Building for 10 years. Ms. Chanthouen said she saw some ministry officials at the building early on Tuesday morning, but they hadn’t spoken with her.

While she sold pork and rice outside her home in front of the almost-empty apartment building on Tuesday, she said she was worried a move would disrupt her children’s education.

“They go to school nearby,” she said. “I’m waiting until they have a break.”

Ms. Srey Pov and her neighbor, Sreng Pov, on Tuesday reaffirmed that they would remain in their homes until the ministry offered them more money.

“I have the same feelings as before,” Ms. Pov said. “I can’t buy a new house.”

“I don’t know what will happen” when the deadline passes, she said. “But I think they won’t leave people here. Maybe they’re just busy.”

Land Management Ministry officials could not be reached for comment. Arakawa managing director Ieng Sotheara declined to comment.

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