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How to Build an Elite Island

Koh Pich, or “Diamond Island” in Khmer, sits at the mouth of the Tonle Bassac river in Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh. It didn’t exist just half a century ago; according to legend, a ship sank where the island lies now, leading silt to slowly accumulate.

But the name wasn’t grand enough for real-estate developers, who prefer to call it “Elite Town,” sending a signal about the future clients of this one-mile-long island. Not long ago, 300 families of fishermen lived here. They have all been bought out for a few hundred dollars.

“Elite town will be the most luxurious area of Phnom Penh and the only one downtown with a view of the river,” read the flyers, printed on glossy paper. The island is located in the south of the city, where the river continues its journey towards Vietnam.

This real estate project is massive: 185 acres of land will be transformed into villas, apartments, luxury hotels, gardens, a marina, a business center, a shopping mall, a hospital, and an area called “embassy village.” Though we don’t exactly know what the latter means, it sure sounds fancy.

The city hall, hospital, theater, fire station, and golf course are already in use. As is the amusement park and its carousels, and the wedding halls, sold out on the weekends. The “love garden” and two apartment buildings should be operational soon.

The 30-story building complex (with luxury housing, offices, a shopping mall, and a 650-foot long swimming pool) is still under construction, as is the 1,820-foot-high Diamond Tower.

Morgan Fache
Morgan Fache has been working as an independent photographer since 2011. Working as a social worker before that, he has a sensitivity for long-term documentary projects. His work focuses on inequality and on exploring communities with a social approach, specifically in territories affected by colonialism. He collaborates with newspapers and NGOs on a regular basis, and is currently based on the Réunion Island.

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