Sihanoukville, Cambodia

Referred to as ghost houses and buildings, over a 1000 unfinished sky rises populate the skyline of Sihanoukville, Cambodia. Although the official number is 1/10 of that, anyone can see there are many more than that and something has clearly gone wrong.

From 2016 to 2019 a construction boom took over the port city with Chinese developers migrating from Macau to set up a new hotspot for casinos both in person and online. It was a lucrative opportunity for local landlords which lead to quick and ubiquitous construction. But in 2019, a ban on online gambling and then covid-19 put a stop to everything. Buildings, only half-built, were abandoned, Chinese and Cambodian workers were left unpaid and landlords were left with huge sums of debt now that their new income was suddenly cut off.

In the years that followed, many people sought shelter in the deserted buildings and built simple houses with materials they could find. Some even formed small communities of four to ten families. Along the larger roads and busy districts some of the occupants set up modest businesses like restaurants, mechanics or raising roosters for cock-fighting.

This series takes a brief look at the buildings and the people living in them.

Resources: VOD, Nikkei Asia and Southeast Asia Globe