Construction workers, supervisors and janitors working on a massive mixed-use development at the former Boeung Kak lake protested outside the site yesterday, claiming their Beijing-based employer had not paid them in months.
Cheav Borey, 25, an engineer from Kampong Cham, said more than 100 workers are owed back wages spanning from several months to up to a year of work, in some cases totalling thousands of dollars.
“Most of us have loans,” said Borey. “We need the money to pay our loans and for daily life.”
The 20-hectare plot is being developed by Graticity Real Estate Development Co, which contracted the project’s construction to state-owned China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC).
A CSCEC representative who declined to give his name said the firm contracted out the hiring to an unnamed company whose manager had “taken all the money and run away”.
He said the engineering firm had dispatched a supervisor and several workers to find the man.
The leasing of the Boeung Kak lake to Cambodian People’s Party Senator Lao Meng Khin’s company, Shukaku Inc, in 2007 – and the subsequent eviction of thousands of residents – was one of the most controversial real estate deals in Phnom Penh’s recent history.
Read more: Boeung Kak: A Disastrous Decade
Construction on the property did not begin until 2015, when Graticity broke ground.
Several large apartment buildings are already taking shape on the property, which Graticity plans to fill with condominiums, high rise offices, a five-star hotel and a shopping mall.
But workers have been complaining about pay since January, when they hosted a smaller protest claiming that the company had not paid them in months and that salaries were lower than promised.
A representative of Graticity declined to comment.
Sok Reth, 43, a cleaner from Takeo, said she hasn’t received her wages in three months and that company officials originally claimed they would pay employees once the construction was finished.
But now that the job is complete, the man with the money is nowhere to be found, according to Reth.
“We just want to get our pay,” Reth said.
Zhou An Chen, a Chinese construction supervisor, said the company promised to pay him $2,000 per month but so far has only given him between $100 to $500 per month.
“I have to accept it if I want to eat,” Zhou said. “The boss isn’t here and we can’t get our money. How are we supposed to live?”