Building a Kingdom

Buried amid the noise of Cambodia’s real estate boom, the Kingdom’s construction workers are still struggling for access to a steady wage and basic social protections.

It was the shock heard across the nation. Overnight, in Cambodia’s coastal city of Sihanoukville, a Chinese-owned construction site came crashing down around the heads of the workers sleeping in the unfinished building, killing almost 30 people and burying dozens more under rubble. It would be days before the last living worker was pulled out of the wreckage.

Across Cambodia, construction workers, many working in dangerous conditions, are building a Kingdom. Sometimes robed in high-viz vests and crowned with golden hard-hats, they haul bricks, cut steel and scatter showers of brilliant sparks from on high with their welding. Many are far from home, having left their families in the provinces to hitch a ride into the cities in search of steady work. When their labour is done, they will leave shining monuments in their wake, crisp white towers of condominiums ready for wealthy tenants.

But as the tragedy in Sihanoukville shows, it is too often the workers who pay the price.

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