As residents began to move out of Phnom Penh’s iconic White Building on Tuesday, government officials were also present, handing out documentation to those leaving while microfinance staff offered their services.
While some residents piled their possessions into trucks or blocked narrow hallways with unwanted goods, others watched from their doorways, commenting that they would begin packing up in the coming days.
Japanese developer Arakawa, which plans to tear down the low-income housing block and replace it with a 21-story development, has mostly left resident compensation negotiations to the Land Management Ministry. The ministry sent at least several dozen officials to the building on Tuesday.
Microfinance institutions also turned up, sensing a business opportunity. Three young men from Kredit Microfinance leaned against an outdoor railing on Tuesday, wearing crisp white shirts and carrying briefcases.
“We wanted to see if they’ve found a new home, or if they need money,” said Hoy Sambath, one of the microfinance officers. He said about 30 percent of the people he’d spoken to had expressed interest in a loan, usually for between $1,000 and $2,000.
“They just need to buy goods, until they get their salaries,” he said.
A ministry official, Mao Chan Reaksmey, said he was surveying residents about when they planned to complete their exodus.
“I’m seeing how many are gone, and how many are remaining,” he said.
The ministry and Arakawa were handing out documents to departing residents to exchange for a check, he said, adding that there was no official deadline by which residents had to leave.
More than 90 percent of the 493 families in the building have accepted the ministry’s final offer of $1,400 per square meter for their homes.
Eighty homeowners had received their check as of 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, according to a post on the ministry’s Facebook page.
Some residents were excited move-out day had finally arrived.
“If I get my documents today, I’ll go get my money today,” said Ro Pisey, a 45-year-old homeowner who opened up her unit on Tuesday for Arakawa to use as a base of operations.
“I’m happy the company bought my house,” she added.
Pam Man, 37, sitting across the hall from Ms. Pisey’s home with her infant child on her lap, was more unhappy about the prospect of moving.
“I’m going to pack next week,” said Ms. Man, who has lived in the building for more than 20 years.
She said the ministry’s compensation offer was too little for her to afford another home in central Phnom Penh. She plans to move about 9 km away, to the city’s southern Dangkao district.
“I’ll miss my home,” she said. “I like it here. I don’t want to go.”
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