Special Report: When the living share a space with the dead


Property and real estate is booming in Cambodia. Between 2017 and 2018, about 6,400 new construction projects amounting to more than USD12 million have been approved by the government, according to CBRE Group, a global real estate and investment firm.

In the capital Phnom Penh, more than 100 construction projects underway in the city centre alone, CBRE told Reuters.

But with the city’s expansion activities, more and more slum dwellers were evicted especially those who live along the lakes and wetlands.

“The city is expanding and the price of land is increasing; urban poor communities will (continue to) be (ousted) from the city,” said Soeung Saran, executive director of Sahmakum Teang Tnaut (STT), a non-profit that maps the city’s slums.

Almost all of Phnom Penh’s slum-dwellers are landless, with no claim to where they live, according to STT, with at least 15 percent of families “under pressure” of eviction – the fate, on average, of almost 10,000 city residents a year since 1990.

More than 25,000 families live in 277 urban poor settlements around Phnom Penh – perched over swamps and sewage canals, squeezed alongside railway lines or, in the case of Smor San, sharing space with the dead.

In Smor San – a slum built on a cemetery that is still visited by relatives of the deceased. But with about 500 people and an estimated 200 graves, the living here far outnumber the dead.

Watch their story. (Story, photo and video by Thomson Reuters Foundation)