Holdouts Remain as Derelict White Building Empties Out

Phnom Penh’s derelict White Building is emptying out. Most homeowners have accepted compensation and boarded up their rooms. But several families remain, insisting they need more help to find new places to live. They are staying put for now.

The government has not released any information yet on what will happen to families who refuse to leave the building, which was built in 1963 to offer low-income housing. A Land Management Ministry spokesman declined to speak with reporters on Thursday, saying he was too busy.

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Boarded-up doorways in Phnom Penh’s emptying White Building on Thursday (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

According to the ministry’s Facebook page on Thursday evening, more than 390 homeowners have received their compensation. It is not clear how many of the 493 owners have accepted the compensation deal.

But dozens remained in their homes on Thursday, some selling goods out front as others packed their goods onto the backs of trucks.

Some residents reported hearing about a July 6 deadline for moving out, while others said they hadn’t heard from the ministry since their homes were measured back in December.

The building is being demolished to make way for a 21-story development.

The lack of a clearly communicated plan has left some homeowners feeling adrift.

“It’s not that I won’t leave, it’s just that I need them to help me find a home,” Sreng Pov said on Thursday, standing inside her ground-floor home where she continues to sell vegetables. “They haven’t come yet to solve the problem. If I leave now, I can’t find a new place.”

Ms. Pov has never agreed to the ministry’s compensation offer of $1,400 per square meter, saying that the money is not enough to buy a new home elsewhere.

Her neighbor, Khem Srey Pov, is stuck in the same position.

“I’ve looked, but I can’t find anything,” Ms. Srey Pov said. “I’m waiting for them to call us in, so we can ask them to add more money.”

Both women said they aren’t worried about a forced eviction.

Ms. Srey Pov said she believed Land Management Minister Chea Sophara had no choice but to negotiate further.

“I believe he is someone who wants to solve our problems, not force us out,” she said.

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