Ruom Collective
 July 07, 2011 - Phnom Penh, Cambodia. A woman paddles her boat against an a storm on Boeung Kak lake. The new buildings of the Council of Ministers and the office of the prime minister can be seen in the background. The lake was reclaimed to make way for residential and commercial complexes. � Nicolas Axelrod / Ruom


Climate change, drought, and development have devastated Cambodia's Tonle Sap Lake, which feeds millions across Southeast Asia.

Date: Ongoing · Country: Cambodia · Photos: Nicolas Axelrod · Text: Denise Hruby

After decades under the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime and ensuing civil war, the country’s middle class is growing, and so is consumerism. Cambodians are embracing this modernisation.

The young now dress in fashionable clothes and munch on Belgium pralines before watching the newest 3D Hollywood blockbuster. Affluent families are moving into apartment buildings that feature gyms, pools, countless air condition units and a daily maid service. Even luxury carmakers like Porsche and Rolls Royce have opened dealerships in the capital Phnom Penh. Countless opportunities exist for investors, but critics say that rapid development has made the rich richer, and the poor poorer.

The majority of the population is left out. For the thousands of people that were violently evicted from their homes in the city center, development meant that they were relocated to barren plots of land. Schools, health-care centers, markets or any income opportunity were out of reach. The ones who fought for their land were violently suppressed, driven out of their homes with tear gas and water canons.

Today, their once poor but lively communities have been replaced with sterile real estate projects. In Cambodia, development has been happening fast – but with little regard for collateral damage. Over seven years, photographer Nicolas Axelrod has documented Cambodia with great attention to detail.

‘Transitioning Cambodia’ is a photography book showing the everyday struggles in this country that’s still torn between the burden of its horrific past and the promises the future holds.

You can order a copy of the book ‘Transitioning Cambodia’ by sending an email to: