Ministry, investors discuss future of the White Building and its residents

Source: Phnom Penh Post

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At the Ministry of Land Mangement, Urban Planning and Construction (MLMUPC) on Tuesday, a meeting – the second of its kind – conducted in the aims of reaching a solution for the White Building’s development, between 500 residents representing 554 families, and Japanese investors still did not manage to reach a consensus.

His Excellency senior minister of the MLMUPC Chea Sophara attempted to placate the situation with explanations concerning the development policies of the impending project, urging that in the end “all of us [want] to win.”

He gave people from the local community the chance to ask questions directly to him and Alex K. Yasumoto, CEO of Japanese company Arakawa Co. Ltd. – the developer responsible for the demolition and regeneration of the White Building.

Sophara also noted that the development in the area was “in accordance with the goverment’s policies,” adding, “Moreover, [the people living in White Building] have indirectly become the investors, which means we hold a share in this development.”

He also cited the United Nation’s framework regarding housing, which he claims supports the housing rights in Cambodia.

“That is why I dare to talk to you without fear. This condition is appropriate,” said Sophara.

Speaking about the new development that would take over the White Building, he said, “For a better living standard, this building should have eight floors for you to stay, while being able to do business. We will also have three other floors for parking. The ninth to the twenty-first floors will be left for the company to cover expenses and operation.”

According to Sophara and Yasumoto, the White Building project is projected to take three years and $70 million to complete.

If and when all parties reach an agreement, the project will ideally start on January 7 next year. Arakawa Co. Ltd. will be responsible for setting up temporary housing for the residents around the Teuk Thla area.

The minister also noted that after construction has begun, he would approve certificates of ownership to the people. At present, the White Building residents’ houses measure only 54 square metres each; their new houses will have 10 percent more space than their current ones.

At the meeting, Yasumoto also made public the capital he possessed by showing an announcement letter issued by the Standard Chartered Bank.

It was disclosed in the letter that Yasumoto holds around HKD90 to 100 million ($12.9 million) in capital.

Yasumoto, whose other companies include Hong Kong-based Causeway Corner Ltd. – possessing $130 million in capital – Kyoritsu Building Co. Ltd in Tokyo, and Pacific Investment Pty. Ltd in Sydney, is well-versed in acquiring and completing real estate projects.

Furthermore, he claimed, foreign banks will also be able to provide loans of up to $80 million to his company for this particular investment.

Yasumoto urged the attendees to “Please trust His Excellency, the government, myself and Arakawa. Please have faith in us, and you will be able to change your life.”

Regardless, the local representatives present at the meeting were teeming with doubt for their future, taking into consideration the White Building’s tumultous past with investment companies and deals that fell through.

Resident Sem Savuth was glad that the meeting had taken place, but demanded for those involved to cooperate in a survey to find out how many families wanted to be paid and left to their own accord, and how many were willing to accept the new house.

“Doing a survey is a good choice because it gives each family the rights to decide,” Savuth said.

“As far as I know, more than 90 percent of the people want to be paid and leave because they would like to decide the fate of their own future.”

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