Demolition will begin today at the White Building, an icon of the Phnom Penh skyline for more than 50 years.
The bulldozers are free to move in because the last of the 492 unit owners finally signed contracts to sell their properties on Friday.
“I would like to thank the White Building’s residents, the Land Ministry’s working group, the local authorities, Japanese company Arakawa and all stakeholders who have cooperated to make this project possible,” said Land Management minister Chea Sophara.
He also called on local residents to show further cooperation and patience because the demolition by Japanese developers Arakawa was certain to cause prolonged disturbance.
The White Building was built in 1963, while the country was run by the Sangkum Reastr Niyum, or People’s Socialist Community, as a symbol of a modern, fast-growing Cambodia. Until 1979, the building was also a prominent residence of many civil servants.
The building deteriorated, however, and as cracks appeared in the foundations, the government decided it needed to be demolished, granting the redevelopment contract to Arakawa, who are thought to have budgeted $70 to $80 million on the project.
Mr Sophara said arrangements had already been made with Google for the software giant’s Street View to be updated as soon as possible to show the building has been removed.
A former White Building resident, Seng Macheda, applauded the ministry’s willingness to compromise to ensure a smooth handover process.
“I would like to thank Mr Sophara for helping us to leave there without violence,” he said.
Another former resident, Sok Chanrithy, said people throughout the city will be happy all parties have negotiated peaceful sales. “Hopefully, other development projects will also result in the smiles we have seen here,” he said.
The Khmer Amatak art group gathered at the site to mark the signing of sales contracts by the last remaining residents.
They took photos and held a concert of traditional music to say their goodbyes before the building is demolished.
Sia Phearum, the executive director of the Housing Rights Task Force, praised the ministry and residents for working out a harmonious agreement.
“This is an example of something which rarely happens in Phnom Penh,” he said. “It is the first step for this Japanese company coming to help to make our city beautiful.”