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White Building locals get Ministry send-off

Land Minister Chea Sophara speaks to White Building residents during a farewell party on Saturday morning in Phnom Penh.
Land Minister Chea Sophara speaks to White Building residents during a farewell party on Saturday morning in Phnom Penh. Hong Menea

White Building locals get Ministry send-off

The Land Management Ministry hosted a farewell party for residents of Phnom Penh’s iconic but crumbling White Building Saturday, serving up large quantities of noodles and bringing in Buddhist monks to bless the residents before they move.

More than 95 percent of the building’s 493 families have begun the process of packing up their belongings and leaving the building, which Japanese firm Arakawa plans to turn into a 21-storey mixed-use complex.

The residents agreed to $1,400 per square metre as compensation for their homes, despite many wanting upwards of $2,000.

Land Minister Chea Sophara attended the party and spoke with some of the departing families, but did not address the crowds, despite having announced the event on Facebook. “In order to move to a new home, I would like to invite residents of White Building and the media to have a noodle party and fun together,” he wrote.

White building residents feast on the farewell noodle party thrown by the Ministry of Land Management on Saturday in Phnom Penh.
White building residents feast on the farewell noodle party thrown by the Ministry of Land Management on Saturday in Phnom Penh. Hong Menea

In the morning, residents were blessed by some 50 monks, and then ate lunch while being entertained by live music.

As of last evening, 284 families had vacated their apartments, according to Hue Chenda, deputy director for the ministry’s housing department. Less than 20 families have yet to accept any compensation, and Chenda said he was unaware if any had changed their decision.

Tuy Channa, 35, said she had already relocated, but came back to join in the celebrations. “Living at the White Building was a happy [time], because we knew each other very well and now I feel nostalgic.”

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