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Cambodia’s Unbridled Race

Photographer Benjamin Filarski's project “Above the Hill” focuses on the rapid urbanization and development of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, at a pace that leaves most citizens behind.

At the end of the Khmer Rouge regime in 1979, 90% of the local elite and 25% of the entire population had disappeared. Years of instability followed, until, at the turn of the century, the Cambodian government, supported by Chinese funds, set out to invest in Phnom Penh's urbanization as the economical drive of the country, The images show the transfiguration of countryside and small communities close rivers and lakes, previously inhabited by residents who were quickly evicted, into busy districts, filled with malls and high rises.

A Cambodian worker on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. Tens of thousands of workers are working on the construction sites. In recent years, the capital has been expanding with many suburban areas.

A security guard looks out the window of the top floor of a skyscraper. Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

All the inhabitants of Koh Pich were evicted about ten years ago. Very few fishermen still catch fish in the Bassac River that surrounds the island. Koh Pich, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

A recent graduate student poses in front of the Koh Pich town hall, a copy of French-style architecture. Koh Pich, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Employees of the Koh Pich theater take their shower before starting work. Koh Pich, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Despite the incessant noise of the fair's sound system, it seems to be an attractive place for young Cambodian couples. Koh Pich, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

“In Elite Town, today a house can cost up to 1 million dollars. Right across the street is the "Elysees", a huge $150 million real estate project that gives us a glimpse of this fake Paris with its Haussmann-style buildings and its replica of the Arc de Triomphe”, writes the photographer. Portraits and candid scenes focus on the middle and lower classes, working to build housing for the rich, which will largely remain empty because only a small minority can afford it.

Mie, 51, from Prey Veng, works as a sweeper on Diamond Island. Her daily salary is 4$ per day. Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Tens of thousands of workers are working on the construction sites of Koh Pich. They finish work at 5pm. After that, they go back to their prefabs in which they live temporarily, very close to their workplace. Koh Pich, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

A boy dressed in a Batman cape with Superman colors stands in a cemetery.

During the day, all the restaurants near the river are closed. They open in the evening when people go out for dinner. Koh Pich, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

A young boy poses in the Koh Pich neighbourhood, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Fishermen of the Cham ethnic group live in dugout canoes on the island in front of Koh Pich. Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

All the inhabitants of Koh Pich were expelled about ten years ago. Today, it is the workers who live in prefabricated buildings on the island who occasionally fish for crabs and shellfish. Koh Pich, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

You can follow Benjamin Filarski’s work on his website.

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