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Reluctant residents criticise White Building deal

Pech Sotheary / Khmer Times Share:
Land minister Chea Sophara says residents are receiving a fair price. KT/Chor Sokunthea

Residents of Phnom Penh’s landmark White Building have criticised a deal struck with the government to sell their ap artments and make way for Japanese developers.
The deal was made after a meeting between residents and Land Management Minister Chea Sophara last week.
Of 493 families living in the building, 88 per cent have agreed to sell their properties to the developers, while the remainder will move out during renovations and return afterwards.
Of those who want to leave, 203 have now agreed to sell their properties to Arakawa Ltd for $1,400 per square metre.
They were previously asking to be paid between $2,000 and $2,200 per square metre.
Land Ministry spokesman Seng Lot said those who had accepted the government’s offer were enabling the redevelopment of an iconic building and urged the remaining owners to follow suit.
He said the ministry was also offering an extra $100 per family to help them relocate by July 7.
“We are calling on all those in the building to please sign the contract  as soon as possible in order for the project to be implemented quickly,” he said.
One resident who accepted the deal, Dy Sophannaramany, said she had signed the contract reluctantly, admitting it would be difficult to find suitable accommodation in the capital for that amount of money.
“My place is worth about $40,000. I have no choice since the government’s partner Arakawa can only pay what it has offered. This amount makes it difficult for me to buy another place but we have no choice.”
Another resident who is still holding out for a higher payment, Touch Reaksmey, said she could not accept a sum of money which did not allow her to buy anything else. She said she will not leave unless Arakawa increases its offer to $2,000 per square metre. “What I am asking for is not above market price,” she said. “I want to sell my unit and be able to buy somewhere else nearby.
“This amount of money would only let me move to the suburbs, so I am not accepting it.”
The Land Minister rejected her claims, saying $1,400 per square metre was above the going rate and Arakawa could not increase its offer. “$1,400 is the final offer,” he said.
The 54-year-old building is considered unsafe and is being torn down to make way for an upmarket 21-storey tower block at a cost of $70-$80 million.
The investors Arakawa will own everything from the ninth floor up and it is unclear what they plan to put there.

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