Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - White Building plans laid out by ministry



White Building plans laid out by ministry

Traffic passes Phnom Penh’s iconic White Building earlier this year.
Traffic passes Phnom Penh’s iconic White Building earlier this year. Hong Menea

White Building plans laid out by ministry

Minister of Land Management Chea Sophara told representatives of residents of Phnom Penh’s White Building yesterday that the iconic structure is to be torn down and replaced with a 21-storey multipurpose tower.

A statement from the ministry yesterday officially named Arakawa Co Ltd as the commercial partner and was released following a meeting between Sophara, the developer and the representatives earlier in the day.

The statement says the top 12 floors of the new building will be set aside for Arakawa to sell privately. Three of the first nine floors will be reserved for car parking, and five for accommodation for existing White Building residents – with the floor space of each resident increased by 10 percent. One floor will be set aside for commercial units.

The projected cost of the development has more than doubled since the ministry’s last announcement of the planned project at the end of August – from $30 million to $70 million-$80 million.

Soeung Sara, acting director of housing rights NGO Sahmakum Teang Tnaut, confirmed the content of yesterday’s meeting, calling it the first time a land management minister had met with a community about a land dispute.

However, Sara urged both the government and the company to conduct a housing survey to evaluate the true number of families needing re-housing or compensation, cautioning that previous communities uprooted by development projects have seen members left behind.

“Take Borei Keila; some people had to leave there without any compensation,” Sara said, referring to a deal in which evictees were promised units in new developments, some of which never materialised.

Borei Keila evictee Sar Sorn, 57, yesterday advised White Building residents to think carefully about whether they accept Sophara’s proposal, or risk facing a fate similar to hers.

“This time they [the government] may keep its promise because they need villagers’ votes. The election is coming,” Sorn said. “For us, we are suffering.”

A 36-year-old White Building resident, who asked not to be named, said they would rather negotiate compensation than wait to be re-housed in the White Building’s replacement, which is forecasted to take up to four years to be completed.

“We need acceptable compensation, we asked for at least $50,000 for each family,” they said. “They just asked us to leave our home temporarily with a promise that we can return, but . . . it’s difficult for me to talk about that.”

Contacted yesterday afternoon, Arakawa managing director Ieng Sotheara said he was unaware his firm had been appointed to execute the project. “I was at the meeting. Maybe he announced it after that, but the meeting was just to gain the trust of the people,” said Sotheara.

Neither the ministry nor the company have set a firm date for the construction, with Sotheara saying that “the company is waiting for a real survey of how many families are living there, how many square metres there really are, who is an owner, who is a renter”.

Minister Sophara and residents are due to resume discussions on November 8. Neither Sophara nor any of the ministry’s three spokespeople were reachable for comment.

MOST VIEWED

  • Kingdom's Covid cluster cases jump to 194

    The Ministry of Health on February 25 confirmed 65 new cases of Covid-19, with 58 linked to the February 20 community transmission. The latest cluster cases include nine Vietnamese nationals, five Cambodians, one each from Korea, Singapore and Japan, with the rest being Chinese. This brings the total number

  • Locations shut, dozens more Covid-19 positive

    The Ministry of Health has closed 23 locations in connection with the February 20 community transmission of Covid-19 and summoned for testing anyone who had direct contact with affected people and places. The number of discovered related infections has risen to 76, including 39 women. In a press release,

  • Cambodia's Covid cluster cases rise to 137

    The Ministry of Health on February 24 recorded 40 more cases of Covid-19, with 38 linked to the February 20 community transmission. Of the 40, two are imported cases involving Chinese passengers. The 38 include two Vietnamese nationals and one Cambodian, with the rest being Chinese. This brings the total cases

  • Covid cluster raises alarm, health bodies urge vigilance

    The Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia have expressed great concern over the February 20 cluster transmission of Covid-19 in the community. Both entities appealed for vigilance and cooperation in curbing further spread of the virus. Ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine said

  • PM confirms third Covid-19 community transmission

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on February 20 announced the Kingdom's third outbreak of Covid-19 community transmission after 32 people tested positive in just over 10 hours. Addressing the public from his residence after an emergency meeting, Hun Sen said: "I dub it February 20 Community Event, in which 32 cases

  • Cambodia's cluster cases jump to 259

    The Ministry of Health on February 27 recorded 26 more cases of Covid-19 linked to the February 20 community transmission, bringing the total to 259 in one week. The 26 include three Vietnamese nationals and one Cambodian, with the rest being Chinese. The ministry noted that five of the Chinese