Sihanoukville picks up pieces after gambling chaos

Foreign investors rode a hot streak in Sihanoukville until the gambling game collapsed last summer. Now, with the boomtown at risk of going bust and the city decaying around them, long-term residents, local businesses and construction workers are picking up the pieces.

Long white banners hang from the green construction netting erected around the shell of an unfinished building. Mandarin characters run down their length, carrying a message for any reader who might pass through the Golden Lions roundabout at the heart of Cambodia’s southern port city of Sihanoukville.

“We have already stopped working for two months, but we have not received compensation for four months of work,” reads the message, apparently written by Chinese construction workers. “Please come to help us. [We believe] that the Cambodian and Chinese governments will support us. Please help decide the future for us workers, and our salary, the wages we earned through sweat and blood, and let us go home.”

The plea flutters in plain sight above the half-completed building, which is just one of many skeletons that make up Sihanoukville’s new but crumbling skyline. For those who didn’t see the sign in person, it made its way online through Chinese social media platforms like WeChat, where users have increasingly discussed the hardships of life in Sihanoukville for their compatriots.

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