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Chruoy Changvar: city sanctuary

Chruoy Changvar: city sanctuary

Tucked away across the Tonle Sap river from Phnom Penh is Chruoy Changvar, a place

where many city-dwellers have never been. Yet it has become a treasured park for

some.

"I come here to relax and cast the fishing net after working," said Phaung

Samnang, 25, a car mechanic living in the capital. "It is a good area to visit.

I like the fresh air."

Chruoy Changvar, accessible by a quick 500 riel ferry ride across the Tonle Sap,

is the peninsula where the muddy Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers converge in front of

the Royal Palace. Boats moor in the mud flats. Food vendors line the promenade hawking

noodles, fruit and other dishes while overlooking the city's waterfront.

Yet, for the most part, the city of Phnom Penh is just a backdrop for the explosively

colored sunsets that herald each night.

Recently,

the government has considered bids from private developers to build a trade center

and five-star hotel on the site. It was originally slated as a park and conference

center by former Phnom Penh Governor Chea Sophara. But the facility sits unfinished,

delayed by a lack of funds and government haggling.

A consortium of NGOs and university students have urged Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chutema

to reconsider developing the area.

"We wrote the letter to the Governor to request that... he should think carefully

about benefits to both the government and the people living there," said Lim

Phai, chairman of the Urban Sector Group's management team, a petitioner in the letter.

The group asked for the land to be left as a natural park.

No Vien, 52, a fisherman who lives in a nearby village, said the government's beautification

workwas

commendable so far.

"Before this place was a shit-jungle and there were no people walking through

it," he said. "Now, it's good for the person who has no job to be a vendor

and live better than before."

Heng Koshol, 34, who tends the gardens at Chruoy Changvar, said many people visit

in the early evening. He predicted that if Chruoy Changvar was changed to anything

but a garden and tourist area, people would not return.

 

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