Final White Building Holdouts Sell Their Apartment Units

The demolition of Phnom Penh’s dilapidated White Building is on track to begin today after the final seven holdouts agreed to sell their share of the housing block to its new developer over the weekend, according to a Land Management Ministry official.

The units were sold on Saturday to Arakawa—the Japanese company erecting an $80 million, 21-story multi-use complex in the building’s place—for the same $1,400 per square meter price that has been on offer since negotiations started, according to ministry spokesman Seng Lot.

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Units on the ground floor of Phnom Penh’s condemned White Building stand boarded-up on Saturday. (Phan Soumy/The Cambodia Daily)

“All the same. Nothing was implemented differently from the overall policy,” he said of the price point. “From start to finish, only one policy was implemented.”

Some residents had been reluctant to sell their units for the price, saying it was insufficient compensation to find alternative housing within the capital.

However, Sam Sarin, a secondary school teacher and one of the last seven holdouts, said that after the ministry had announced the impending demolition on Tuesday, the company and ministry together inflated the area of his 20.4-square-meter unit to encourage the final holdouts to budge.

“The company added a bit and His Excellency also had a policy to add more for the people from 3 to 4 square meters each,” Mr. Sarin said, referring to Land Management Minister Chea Sophara.

“He added a little bit to encourage us to quickly move out, as they are going to demolish the building to make way for development,” he added. “He wouldn’t let people cry.”

A total of 492 families owned units in the 1960s low-income block before Arakawa began negotiating their purchase. City Hall condemned the building in September 2014.

Residents were offered new, larger units in the development, which is expected to be ready in about four years, or to sell their units to the company. All residents have now chosen compensation.

Mr. Lot on Sunday referred questions on the demolition to Arakawa, whose managing director Ieng Sotheara referred questions back to the ministry, saying the ministry was organizing the process.

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