Veng Sreng Street Upgrade Behind Schedule

The head of a construction company working to upgrade Phnom Penh’s dusty, potholed Veng Sreng Street said Thursday that the project would take twice as long to complete as expected.

In November, Phnom Penh governor Pa Socheatvong announced that a 6.5 km strip of the road—which is home to a large concentration of the country’s garment factories—would be sealed and paved by the end of 2014.

But Thursday, the chief of TCM Construction said that due to businesses and dwellings encroaching on the fringes of the road, it would not be complete before the end of 2015.

“There are so many people living on the pavement that we can not possibly finish by the agreed time. If the people were gone, we could fix it much faster,” said the construction chief, who gave his name only as Tieng for fear of losing his contract.

“The result of the slow work is that we are only 15 percent complete. We appeal to the Ministry of Public Works and Transport and City Hall to solve the problem of people living along the edge of the road,” he said, estimating that the 14-month plan had grown into a 28-month project.

City Hall’s grand plan for Veng Sreng includes widening the thoroughfare to 28 meters, with 19.5 meters of that paved and a 2.5-meter grassy area in the center.

At present, the road resembles something between a warzone and a rocky desert, with knee-deep potholes, random sections of paved road crowded with crawling traffic, and construction machinery accompanying giant piles of earth.

Khuong Sreng, deputy Phnom Penh governor, said Thursday that those living on the edge of the road were living on state land.

“For people who live next to the road, they have to move. But the compensation is not the job of City Hall or local officials, it is for the Ministry of Finance to work on,” Mr. Sreng said.

Representatives of the Ministry of Finance on Thursday declined to comment.

Veng Sreng Street is one of three areas of concentrated garment factories in Phnom Penh, according to Ken Loo, secretary general for the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia. Mr. Loo said that while the state of the road did not reduce the loads of garments leaving the area, it did cause things to move more slowly.

Meas Pisey, a 32-year-old living on the fringes of Veng Sreng Street, said Thursday that he was resigned to having to relocate with no compensation.

“I have already dismantled my house two months ago even though they should compensate me some,” he said.

“My mind wants compensation, but I know I cannot [stand up] against them.”

(Additional reporting by Matt Blomberg)

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