Urban Poor Photo Exhibition in 2024 On Housing and Life

Sahmakum Teang Tnaut (STT) is located in Phnom Penh. STT was founded in 2005 and officially registered in 2006 as a local NGO supporting urban poor communities. STT vision is urban poor and vulnerable communities receiving adequate housing, and improved living conditions and prosperity. To achieve this vision, STT has the mission to develop advocacy tools, empower, and support urban poor and vulnerable communities to obtain adequate and comfortable housing. 

On February 23, 2024 Sahmakum Teang Tnaut Organization (STT) was organized Photo Exhibition on Housing and Life at Champei Garden. The event was attended by donors, NGO partners, and urban poor communities in Phnom Penh.The photo exhibition is an activity undertaken by Sahmakum Teang Tnaut Organization (STT) and these photos were taken by STT from 2022 to January 2024. 

These 60 photographs aim at highlighting challenges faced by urban communities affected by development, land insecurity, resettlement, lack of pre-arranged services and infrastructure in relocation sites, and forced evictions. The idea is to showcase to the public and stakeholders such challenges, to raise awareness, and work together to find solutions to fulfill their right to adequate housing. The exhibition also showcases the current state of the lakes in the city, and the environmental impact caused by filling the lakes.

Free the Lake

Since 1990, Phnom Penh has seen the infilling of 26 lakes, with 16 already lost to urban development, and more currently in the process. Urban development, including the construction of new satellite cities, has been the driving force behind the disappearance of these vital water bodies. Two prominent lakes, Boeung Tumpun (Boeung Choeung Ek) and Boeung Tamok (Boeung Kob Srov), are facing this issue. Boeung Tumpun spans 2,600 hectares in the southern region of Phnom Penh, across Khan Meanchey and Khan Dangkor districts, and even extends to Takhmao city in Kandal province. Boeung Tamok, the largest natural lake in the city, covers 3,239.7 hectares in the northwest near Win-Win Boulevard, across Khan Prek Pnov and Khan Por Sen Chey districts. In accordance with many studies, the infillings have serious repercussions: forced evictions, land disputes, employment disruptions, migration, and social inequities. Moreover, they compromise the city’s water filtration capabilities and alter natural water drainage, heightening the risk of floods during the rainy season.

Flooding in communities

In urban areas grappling with poverty, the rainy season often brings considerable hardship due to inadequate drainage or sewage infrastructure. Overflowing sewage creates a habitat conducive to the proliferation of germs and mosquitoes, resulting in health concerns like skin infections and dengue fever, as well as pervasive foul smells.

Moreover, the inundated streets pose significant challenges for residents’ mobility, particularly affecting children. To navigate these areas route to school, they must adapt by changing clothes and removing shoes to wade through contaminated waters. The flooding also heightens the risk of drowning, which discourages parents from pursuing work, further aggravating the community’s financial distress.


Cambodia is a country that is striving to achieve high middle-income status by 2030. The Royal Government has been making efforts to promote economic growth across all sectors. However, these development initiatives have led to forced evictions affecting poor and vulnerable communities. These communities have often been compelled to accept inadequate and unreasonable compensation for resettlement. According to the United Nations Guidelines on Evictions and Resettlement, evictions should involve genuine consultation, avoid disproportionate use of force, provide adequate and reasonable notice, and offer legal remedies. Unfortunately, some communities have faced eviction without full compliance with national and international laws. This situation has caused fear and displacement among affected communities, leaving them with insufficient resources for new construction and forcing them to live far from essential public services. In 2023 Sahmakum Teang Tnaut (STT)’s report – The Phnom Penh Survey – highlights that there are more than 191 urban poor settlements in the city, living in poverty. Among these, 69% of communities are considered tenure insecure, and 29% face the threat of eviction. These communities hope that authorities will prioritize on-site development rather than eviction, or provide appropriate solutions in the confines of the law.


Communities, after moving from their previous settings, are often settled in new areas significantly distanced from the city and economic hubs. Regrettably, the compensation they receive often fall short of what is necessary to rebuild their homes or to invest in business ventures. This makes their new life even more difficult than before.

In relocation sites, community living conditions are subpar, with many residing in basic shelters. They face a severe shortage of critical public amenities such as electricity, clean water, education, and healthcare. Their distance from economic centers has led to dwindling incomes and mounting debts. Resettlement plans that overlook these essential needs only serve to deepen poverty and entrench a cycle of inadequate housing.

The United Nations Guidelines on the Right to Adequate Housing mandate secure tenure, access to essential services, affordability, thoughtful location, cultural respect, and adherence to tradition. International law acknowledges the right to adequate housing as a basic human right.

Capacity development

Education is very important for all walks of life. The right to education is a fundamental human right guaranteed by the Constitution Law of Cambodia and International Law. Some urban poor communities are facing land disputes, poor housing, and have no land title deeds. Those communities often do not understood land rights and some legal issues related to land tenure. To empower communities and enhance their capacity to address these issues, STT offers training on a range of topics. These include human rights, land law, systematic land registration, environmental challenges, and mapping, with a special focus on Circulars 03 and 06. ICT and online safety are also key components of this educational outreach, equipping community members with the skills to effectively engage with relevant stakeholders and seek support for their concerns. Moreover, the training aims to bolster community understanding of their rights, foster unity, and promote environmental stewardship. A critical aspect of the training is teaching communities how to adeptly use social media, enabling them to highlight and document the issues they face. Through these efforts, communities are better prepared to advocate for themselves and work towards positive change.

Small Scale Upgrading

Urban poor communities in Phnom Penh are grappling with economic hardship, substandard housing, deteriorating infrastructure, and insufficient sewer systems. These conditions pose daily challenges, as families lack the means to undertake essential repairs. Flooding is a recurrent issue, necessitating the construction of bridges for regular transit and adequate drainage to mitigate flood risk and dangers such as drowning. Furthermore, poor street lighting can lead to increased drug trafficking and a general sense of insecurity.

To confront these difficulties, it is imperative for communities to seek assistance from various parties, including the royal government, local authorities, and civil society organizations. Sahmakum Teang Tnaut (STT) is instrumental in driving positive change by providing essential small-scale infrastructure improvements, such as bridges, roads, sewers, solar lighting, and housing solutions. These initiatives are key to enhancing the living conditions of these urban poor communities.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *