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A view of Phnom Penh’s White Building on Sothearos Boulevard earlier this week
A view of Phnom Penh’s White Building on Sothearos Boulevard earlier this week. Pha Lina

Audit necessary before demolition, NGOs say

A group of nine NGOs has called for a “full independent building audit safety assessment” of the capital’s iconic White Building, amid fears it is slated for demolition.

“The results of this assessment should inform a public consultation with the White Building residents and civil society regarding a development plan for the site,” a statement released yesterday said.

The NGOs said the statement was in response to a local media report in which Phnom Penh Municipal Governor Pa Socheatvong was quoted as saying that the time had come to condemn the building and knock it down.

Socheatvong could not be reached yesterday, but City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche denied such plans existed, while saying the building was a “danger” to residents.

“Considering the age of the building and the fact that it’s condemned and can collapse someday, we have informed residents of the danger in living there,” he said. “However, City Hall has no current plans to force people out or demolish the building.”

Dimanche added that City Hall was encouraging residents to move from their homes because the building was unsafe.

Officials have given White Building occupants – some of whom rent their apartments and others who own – the option of moving to an apartment built by the Overseas Cambodia Investment Corporation (OCIC) in the capital’s Chroy Changva district, he said.

The decaying and dilapidated building was designed by Lu Bun Hap as part of a project overseen by famed architect Van Molyvann during the 1960s.

The building as a whole has no owner, said Ee Sarom, acting director of land rights group Sahmakum Teang Tnaut (STT). Different people or companies own each unit.

Residents on Wednesday ex­pressed anxiety about the rumours, saying they would only leave on their own terms.

“Those of us living here agreed with each other that we will not move to another place since this place has provided us with happiness and safety for about 30 years,” Eng Kry, 70, said.

Chhean Vesna, 36, said that for her to move, the city would have to meet her price, “which is at least $10,000”.

“The money would have to be paid before I signed anything.”

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