Land Minister Urges White Building Residents to Support CPP

Land Management Minister Chea Sophara rallied residents of Phnom Penh’s condemned White Building to vote for the CPP on Tuesday, repeating calls he made last month to the apartment block’s homeowners.

“Election Day is on the 4th, so please make sure to vote in the box, and don’t make us lose face,” he said. “I have done my job for you, so brothers and sisters should support us.”

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A resident of Phnom Penh’s condemned White Building speaks at a compensation meeting at the Land Management Ministry on Tuesday. Land Management Minister Chea Sophara urged the assembled families to vote for the CPP, repeating calls he made last month. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

More than 90 percent of families living in the White Building have agreed to compensation of $1,400 per square meter for their homes from Japanese developer Arakawa, which plans to demolish the iconic building to build a 21-story development.

The Land Management Ministry has been managing the monthslong negotiation process with residents. Mr. Sophara held a meeting on Tuesday morning at ministry headquarters with 41 families who have not yet agreed to the compensation and convinced 13 of them to accept the terms. This leaves 28 still holding out.

“The families who have not agreed to the compensation want the ministry to measure their homes to include adjacent areas they say are part of their plot and put them into the contract,” ministry spokesman Seng Lot said after the meeting, adding that such a change would be “impossible.”

Phnom Penh’s White Building in September 2014 (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

“If we offer that for them, how about others?” he said.

Son Phany, one of the holdouts, said her compensation would be too small to afford another place.

“It’s such a small amount of money,” said Ms. Phany, whose plot is 9 square meters. “Where would I be able to buy [a home]?”

Mr. Sophara had another meeting on Tuesday afternoon with more than 200 residents who have already agreed to the offer, telling them that there would be no further negotiations for those who had not yet signed the documents. Residents could start leaving their homes from June 6, he said.

Some residents said they had felt pressured into accepting the ministry’s terms. “I forced myself to agree,” resident Sam Nary said, “because if I stay then I suppose I would have to look for a house with nothing.”

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