The Rich Man Staying in the Slum

On my recent trip to Cambodia, I had the opportunity to visit a slum area within Phnom Penh. From the developed area, we walked down a street, from an old tar road, to cement path, to a dirt track till we come to a river of sorts, where we faced a wooden planked bridge. Even before we reached the river, we could smell it.

Once we crossed the bridge, we entered into another world. Houses were no longer made of bricks. They were pieced together with wooden planks and zinc plates. They were very small units with very low roofs and we see women and children in the houses getting on with their lives. I guess they are used to having strangers walking through their so-called town. The children were happily playing outside the houses, happy to interact with us.

What was interesting in this slum was a carpentry right in the middle of the slum area. What made the sight stranger was that there was a 3 story house built right next to it. Now this house was not made of the same wooden planks used in the other houses. This house used heavy wood that are intricately carved.

I did not manage to take pictures of the carpentry and the rich man’s house as there were people there watching. I was told that the wood used at the carpentry sourced from illegal loggers. There are very hard durable wood that will last beyond the lifetime of their buyers.

I saw bed frames, wall cabinets and cupboards. The men in the carpentry were hard at work, including a young boy who could not be older than 10-year-old.

Now, it is not uncommon for a rich carpentry owner to stay right in the middle of a slum in Cambodia. The slums provide them a good living using cheap labour by the people living there. Staying with the carpentry is also important as occasionally here are police raids. If the owner is not there, the carpentry equipment would be taken away. Of course, paying the right amount would ensure they get everything back. Rather than going through the hassle of removing and getting their equipment back, staying there is a lot more convenient.

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