Phnom Penh Municipality will move ahead with its plan to transform a notorious brothel area into an upscale commercial center by raising the ground-level of the entire area, officials said on Monday.
The government announced last month that the brothels of Svay Pak commune, long known as a center of prostitution, had been shut down and that the area would be aggressively promoted as a legitimate business investment.
“District officials, local residents and a few local businesses are discussing how much money residents and the government should pay” for the landfill, said Mam Bun Neang, Phnom Penh first deputy governor.
He added that bidding for the project, which will involve dredging the Mekong river for soil, would start this month.
“It is part of our strategy to successfully get rid of the sex trade in this area. The Municipality will encourage all investors to start developing this area,” he said.
Um Yoeun, Svay Pak commune chief, said he had not yet spoken with residents about the project but acknowledged that the area saw frequent flooding during the rainy season.
Almost 80 percent of the commune is located on low land, he said, but the flooding problem has been improved by the construction of several dams in recent years.
Mam Bun Neang said that there is growing interest in the area from local investors and that he expects construction to start as soon as the landfill is completed.
Kek Galabru, president of human rights group Licadho, praised the Municipality’s efforts in Svay Pak but said that residents should not be asked to pay for improvements.
“I gladly welcome the development of the Svay Pak area,” she said. “But the government should ask investors who are interested in developing this area to fill the [land] themselves.”