The “Little Paris” of Phnom Penh Astounds the International Media

An aerial photo taken on March 1, 2024 shows the Elysee Commercial Center building in the Paris-style development along the Bassac river in the satellite city of Koh Pich in Phnom Penh.

Last month, photos of the Arc de Triomphe [the monument in the shape of an arch in Paris in France] and the “Little Paris” built on Koh Pich (Diamond Island) in Phnom Penh have been shown around the world following a report on the subject released by a major news agency.   

The international excitement, especially in Europe, about this information is not only due to the astonishment triggered by the reproduction of the architectural codes of the French capital requested by the project's developers launched in 2015 on this island in Phnom Penh where farmers in the past grew vegetables.

The excitement is also linked to the nature of the project, described by a French news media outlet and many others as an enclave of chic meant for the wealthy, providing shelter from traffic jams and noise pollution in one of Asia’s poorest countries.

But this also reflects an ignorance, at least in the Western world, of today’s Cambodia.

Viewed from there, for many people, the country remains as it was in the 1990s, that is, a country being rebuilt following two decades of civil war and the Khmer Rouge regime’s years of devastation.

Therefore, one is surprised to discover that, in 2024, Phnom Penh is filled with highrises, that huge fortunes have been amassed in this city, and that Cambodia, supported by steady growth, aims to become an upper middle-income country by 2030 and a high-income country by 2050.  

No longer in the headlines—which is a good thing —due to other battlefields, the country has managed to make itself forgotten and the change it has experienced over the last 15 years has nearly gone unnoticed outside Southeast Asia and Asia.

The fact that, during these last four decades, Cambodia has been present on the world stage through nearly the same personalities has no doubt contributed to setting its image.  

A new generation of leaders is gradually taking control of the country under the watchful eye of the elders. Will this generation manage to provide Cambodia with a new image? This is also one of the challenges it has to meet.  


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