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Khmer families forced out of homes as dump is closed

July 22, 2009

The BBC has a series of photographs of life in Stung Meanchey, Phnom Penh’s primary garbage dump, which closed on Monday. Thousands of people have lived and scavenged* in the dump, gaining their livelihood from the aluminum and plastic that they could recycle for small change. To put it mildly, life was not easy for people living in Stung Meanchey. They dealt with disease and health hazards from being surrounded by waste, extreme hunger and malnutrition, violence, and injuries from the trucks.

Now that the dump is closed, trash is instead be carried to a new dump 15 km outside of the city, which will not allow scavengers, since trash will be buried instead of piled above ground . The families currently living in the dump will be forced out, but they face an uncertain future, since they will be losing their main source of income. The government says that it is working with local NGOs to provide for the families that will be uprooted.


During my first visit to Cambodia, one of the priests that I work closely with visited Stun Meanchey. Even after years of working in Battambang and being exposed to desperate poverty in the villages around us, he said that what he witnessed in Stun Meanchey was not only heartbreaking, but shocking. I’ve never seen it myself; I don’t spend a lot of time in Phnom Penh, and usually when I’m there, it’s because I’ve been sent away for some “Meg time,”  which means lots of sleeping, reading, and skyping. More than that though, I would feel like a misery tourist just stopping by there.

* Sorry about the sketchy link. The Phnom Penh Post, where this story originally ran, doesn’t have all of its articles online for free. The full text is posted on this site.

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