ភ្នំពេញ និងបញ្ហានៃការថែរក្សាបេតិកភណ្ឌ

អត្ថបទដកស្រង់ចេញពីគេហទំព័ររបស់​ មជ្ឈមណ្ឌលខេមរសិក្សា Center for Khmer Studies (CKS)

ពីទស្សនាវដ្តី សិក្សាចក្រ លេខ ២ (អត្ថបទដើមជាទំរង់ Pdf មាននៅខាងក្រោមនៃអត្ថបទនេះ)

“ភ្នំពេញនិងការប្រយុទ្ធដោយអស់សង្ឃឹមក្នុងការថែរក្សាបេតិកភណ្ឌចាប់ពីឆ្នាំ ១៩៧០ មក”

Phnom Penh, which was founded and established by
King Ponhea Yat after the fall of Angkor (around 1431),
was not the permanent capital of the kingdom until 1863
when King Norodom moved into Phnom Penh from the
previous capital city of Oudong – about 60 km south-west
of the former. In its early days, the city consisted of huts
and a floating wooden shanty town, apart from the Phnom
monastery and perhaps the important royal estates (Munson
et al: 1968; Igout: 1993). The city became fully developed
during (then-Prince) Norodom Sihanouk’s Sangkum Reastr
Niyum government in the 1960s and enjoyed a remarkable
reputation as «Paris of the Far East» or «The Pearl of South
East Asia» (Igout: 1993). Compared to major cities of other
countries, the city has experienced dramatic population
changes since its creation.
The population of Phnom Penh city, due to many reasons
such as changes in the country’s political situation, had
increased from 355,000 inhabitants in 1958 to 394,000
inhabitants during a time of peace in 1962. It then rose to
around 900,000 in late 1969 before the Sihanouk government
was toppled (Igout: 1993), to around 1.5 million in early
1975 during the American war in Indo-China (Kry Beng
Hong et al: 1973), to only a few thousands between 1975
and 1979 during the Khmer Rouge’s reign (H. E. Kry Beng
Hong, 1993). It increased again to around 1 million in 1996
(the author’s own estimation based on the previous year’s
statistics).
Many historical buildings such as those built during the
French protectorate with sophisticated French and Khmer
decoration and design were refitted or demolished in order
to make way for modern-style hotels, apartments and
restaurants, etc. There are many reasons behind the
disappearance of historical buildings, but in principle, the
main issues are political turmoil, the lack of law enforcement
regarding housing and land use, as well as the abuse of power
and wide spread poverty.
POLITICAL CHANGES AND THE CITY DEVELOPMENT
During the American Indo-China War (Between 1970-early
1975), Phnom Penh experienced a higher level of population
growth than ever before. The city’s population increased from
600,000 in 1969 to 1,200,000 in 1972 (of whom
approximately 800,000 were refugees) and to 1,500,000 in
the beginning of 1975 (Kry Beng Hong et al, 1973). The
city was a shelter for migrants, most of whom had fled civil
war in the countryside. With the largest share of its budget
allocated to the military, the government could not do much,
especially in supplying housing to meet such high demand.
However, in the early years of this period, the state managed
to develop some pieces of land and sold it to people at a
subsidized price. According to the report of H. E. Kry
Beng Hong, two main dikes were built. The first reclaimed
800 h.a. of land in 1970, followed by 6.400 h.a. with the
second dike in 1972. This was the only credible development
project of this period.
To worsen the situation, the problems relating to the already
inadequate and ineffective housing, infrastructure and other
services of the city were further exacerbated by this massive
influx of newcomers. As Kry Beng Hong et al, (1973, p.8)
argue: “Vacant lands in and around the city boundaries have
been invaded by people who need shelter. Squatting has
been going on at a large scale. About 20 per cent of city
dwellers live in severe slum conditions.” It was at that time
that government land and housing policies and regulations,
as well as land ownership, were put aside or violated by
newcomers in need of shelters. Both authorities and land
owners felt sympathy toward squatters’ needs; and thus
allowed them to settle on their land (although temporarily,
they thought).
Correspondingly, any urbanisation and development
programmes the government had planned before the civil
war were abandoned under the circumstances, including slum
and squatter clearances, a plan to build a new dike to reclaim
between 5000 and 8000 hectares of land, and other housing
programmes in the suburbs. According to the same study
(Kry Beng Hong et al, 1973) only 250,000 of the total of
800,000 newcomers at the time were able to accommodate
themselves. Of the remaining 550,000 newcomers, the study
found around 200,000 squatted in the city and around
350,000 shared houses with relatives or friends in extremely
overcrowded conditions. Moreover, this situation worsened
when the civil war became critically fierce in the rural areas
and spread close to the capital.
During the Khmer Rouge regime (Between 1975-early 1979),
luxurious buildings, schools, universities, hospitals, churches
and pagodas of all religions, and many other structures were
regarded as symbols of feudalism and imperialism (Vickery,
1984). Of the city’s 122,000 houses (including concrete
buildings, wooden structures with tile roofs and wooden
structures with thatch roofs) before 1975, only 40,000
remained after 1979. Therefore, within the 3 years, eight
months and 20 days of the Pol Pot regime, 82,000 dwellings
were destroyed through demolition or neglect (H.E. Kry Beng
Hong, 1993). As a matter of course many of these buildings
were demolished while others were purged and left to be
destroyed by the weather. The city’s population, as mentioned
early, was forcefully evacuated to rural areas and only a few
thousand of the Khmer Rouge officials and workers were
allowed to live in Phnom Penh ( H. E. Kry Beng Hong,
1993).
Maintenance of the city’s roads were almost abandoned by
the new administration with the exception of those in
constant use or that might be traveled by the small number
of foreign visitors, such as Chinese delegations.
Consequently, most of the paved roads dried out, cracked
and were eventually destroyed by the weather. Roads with
red gravel surfaces became muddy and eroded during rain
and flood. Some roads were completely stripped by the
Khmer Rouge to be used for vegetable gardens. Likewise,
water supply and sewage systems were destroyed or left to
be ruined by weather and neglect. River water was allowed
to flow into the city’s sewage system regardless of the river’s
high water level during the rainy seasons, causing the silting
up of all drainage systems and constant flooding. Similarly,
historical buildings (many of which were old and over used
during the early period of civil war), were further deteriorated
by the weather and lack of maintenance. Others were
demolished by the Khmer Rouge in order to use the land
for gardens or raising farm animals.
After the collapse of the Khmer Rouge Regime, from 1979
to 1989, all property remained in the hands of the state.
The People’s Republic of Kampuchea government did
however allow people to move back to the cities and reoccupy
empty buildings and land, except those reserved for
government utilities. At that time, it was impossible for the
state to start any housing programmes for lack of finances.
Most of the state budget and foreign aid was spent on food,
medical facilities, and the rehabilitation of infrastructure and
public services. There was no commercial property market
and were no private companies involved in the land and
housing market, since they were discouraged by the thencommunist
regime’s policies.
At the same time, all land and property ownership of any
kind before 1979 (before the Khmer Rouge regime) were
declared void by the government. No one could claim
ownership to any property that belonged to them before
1979. The population only had the right of residence and
perhaps maintenance. Although many buildings and houses
were reutilized, there was little attention paid to maintenance
or preservation because the state had no financial ability.
Thus, only cosmetic changes such as cleaning or wall painting
with low quality paints were given to buildings and houses.
However, since property exchange and sales were banned,
most historical buildings were safe from commercial uses
that could lead to demolition.
The time when most historical buildings were demolished
or rebuilt was the period between 1991 and 1993 when
Cambodia hosted tens of thousands of United Nations
personnel who came to the country to organise the election.
It began when the state adopted market economic policies
and recognised private property rights. Property owners
actively rebuilt their buildings hoping to rent to United
Nations personnel. Even though the Municipality of Phnom
Penh did its best to prevent historical buildings from being
demolished, this was a time of uncertainty when many
developers did whatever possible to make high returns from
their property. Many buildings became new city cottages,
restaurants, hotels, guest houses and apartments. It was a
lost battle for the Municipality because during the transitional
period political parties were campaigning for support and
avoided any actions that could reduce their votes. Although
the number of renovations and demolitions has since slowed
down, there is still a danger of losing most of the city’s
historical buildings in the not so distant future, if concrete
actions are not taken by the government and the Municipality.
FUTURE TREND
The future of historical buildings in Phnom Penh and in
other parts of Cambodia does not look very promising. The
lack of laws on housing and preservation for historical
buildings, the widespread poverty of the country, and the
traditional abuse of power contribute to the disappearance
of historical buildings.
After the collapse of the Khmer Rouge, most historical
buildings were occupied by numerous families – especially
buildings that were constructed in the form of apartments
or large cottages. Thus, it is difficult for the many occupants
to reach consensus with building maintenance plans.
The lack of political will by decision makers for instituiting
and enforcing preservation law coupled with the lack of
government funding will contribute strongly to the
disappearance of historical buildings. The government has
many other concerns and priorities as well. Therefore,
international organisations and foreign donor countries
should make preservation issues a priority, or else Phnom
Penh will lose much of its historical significance. These
magnificent historical buildings belong not only to the
Cambodian people but are symbols of human creativity
and intelligence. Thus, preserving such important buildings
should be a responsibility for all.

More infos: http://khmerstudies.org/publications/articles/#History

Text original in Pdf format :

Phnom Penh and its lost battle for the preservation of historic buildings from the 1970’s

Texted by: Dr. BENG Hong Socheat Khemaro

Phnom Penh and its lost battle for the preservation​​ of historic buildings from the 1970’s
(This article is copied from  ~ Siksacakr n° 2)

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