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

  • The hairy little heroes saving many lives in rural Cambodia

    IN RURAL Siem Reap province, rats dare to tread where no person will, as these hairy little heroes place their lives on the line each day for the good of the local community. The rodents are the most important members of a special team, leading

  • Hun Sen’s China visit ‘a good opportunity’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen’s visit to Beijing on Sunday to discuss economic and trade issues presents a good opportunity for the Kingdom to strengthen Chinese ties and counter punitive measures by the West, an analyst says. The prime minister’s four-day official visit to

  • Former chief bodyguard receives royal pardon

    The former chief bodyguard of late Senate president Chea Sim has received a royal pardon nearly eight years after he was sentenced to 15 years behind bars on several charges, according to a royal decree dated November 12, last year, and obtained by The Post on Wednesday.

  • PM warns EU and opposition on 34th anniversary of his rule

    HUN Sen reached the milestone of 34 years as Cambodian prime minister on Monday and used the groundbreaking ceremony for a new ring road around Phnom Penh to tell the international community that putting sanctions on the Kingdom meant killing the opposition. “Please don’t forget