'Transitioning Cambodia' Photos Show Vanishing Worlds Behind Rapid Development
The Huffington Post | By Charlotte Alfred
Posted: 02/25/2015 10:49 am EST Updated: 02/25/2015 10:59 am EST
Until just a few years ago, Boeung Kak Lake in the capital city of Phnom Penh was a prime tourist location and home to thousands of Cambodians. Today, it lies under the sand.
In 2007, a company owned by well-connected Cambodians received a lease to develop the land around the lake. Just a year after it took control, the company started pumping the landmark full of sand, making way for a high-end building project. Thousands of people were forcibly evicted in the process.
A resident of Boeung Kak rows a wooden boat against a storm moving in over Phnom Penh on July 7, 2011. The new buildings of the Council of Ministers and the office of the prime minister can be seen in the background.
The upheaval in Phnom Penh is one of the subjects of the forthcoming photography book Transitioning Cambodia, a collaboration between photojournalist Nicolas Axelrod, journalist Denise Hruby and designer Fani Llaurado. The book covers modern development in Cambodia and the effects on its society and landscape.
"For the hundreds of families that were violently evicted from their homes in the city center, development meant that they were relocated to barren plots of land. Schools, health-care centers, markets or any income opportunity were out of reach," Hruby writes in an article about the book for the Asian Correspondent. "The ones who fought for their land were violently suppressed, driven out of their homes with tear gas and water canons."
Axelrod has been documenting the rapid pace of development in Cambodia and its impact on the country since 2008. After covering the situation in Boeung Kak, he started photographing other Cambodian communities facing eviction, as well as the emerging middle class who moved in to take their place.
"It’s a phase of Cambodia that we will never see again," Axelrod told Voice of America Khmer. "It’s impressive how quickly the middle class has grown and there is so much more wealth than before. But what worries me and what I am scared of is that a lot of people have been left out in this change," he said.
Take a look at a selection of Axelrod's work below, and go to the Transitioning Cambodia crowdfunding campaign to support the book.