Plans for a new ministry building slotted for construction on the site of a public garden near Phnom Penh’s Hun Sen park have raised the ire of residents at one of the most beleaguered housing complexes in the capital.
Workers began erecting a corrugated steel wall around the dirt and grass field in Chamkar Mon district’s Tonle Bassac commune last week. By Tuesday, the partially completed wall sported a sign touting the site as the future home of the Ministry of National Assembly and Senate Relations and Inspection.
“We just felt shocked when they started to build the wall,” said Hem Sam Art, a resident in the abutting ramshackle housing complex.
A long and decrepit building along Sothearos Boulevard, the complex houses hundreds of families, residents said. On most days, the rough grassy plot is covered with adults and children exercising and relaxing. Many of the children who live in the housing complex attend a primary school across the field and on the other side of the busy boulevard.
Most residents said their first concern was for young students who, due to the newly constructed wall, will have to walk in the street to reach their homes. Others were anxious that their run-down building would be next to go.
“I am afraid that the government will remove us in the future,” said So Thearith, 22. “I heard a rumor that we will be asked to leave after the [ministry building] is finished.”
Suon Savath, second deputy commune chief, expressed dismay over the plan.
“This place used to be a garden with baby trees,” he said. “It is all destroyed. I am so sorry.”
The new building is to be constructed by New Hope, a company located in Daun Penh district, according to documents obtained from Tonle Bassac commune headquarters.
Reached Tuesday, a New Hope employee refused to give his name or any details of the project, other than that construction was slated to begin on Jan 15 and would take about a year.
Officials at the Ministry of National Assembly and Senate Relations and Inspection could not be reached for comment Tuesday.