Sothear* sunk red clay bricks into the earth in front of his sheet-metal shack last year during the rainy season when the soil started turning to mud. His handiwork is a haphazardly laid patio, which makes it easier to walk when the dry yard becomes saturated.

The bricks came from the nearby factory in Kandal province’s Preah Prasap commune, about an hour’s drive from central Phnom Penh, where Sothear’s job is to load the building blocks of Cambodia’s construction boom into a kiln for firing. The 48-year-old has worked at the brick factory for about five years, he says in late March outside his home.

He works with his wife—earning a combined 40,000 riel (about US$10) per day—and two of his five children, who help load kiln-fired bricks into a cart after school. The building materials are later trucked to the capital and other cities to build houses, condominiums, hotels and luxury real-estate developments for wealthy Cambodians and foreign expatriates.

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Matt Surrusco

Matt Surrusco is New Naratif's deputy editor. Based in Phnom Penh since 2016, he's also an editor at VOD, freelance reporter and journalism lecturer. Reach him at matt.surrusco@newnaratif.com.