Living with the dead: Urban poor take over Cambodian cemetery

PHNOM PENH – Graveyards may traditionally be the eternal resting place for the dead, but one cemetery in Phnom Penh has become a place to stay for the living, as communities destroyed by unstoppable development are forced to take desperate measures.

Ma Nith confessed she was “speechless” when she realised that Smor San cemetery in the capital was to be home after her arranged marriage.

“It was beyond my belief that I could live here,” said the 42-year-old mother of four, flipping fillets on the grill as her son clambered over a grave.

“But now, I’ve adapted to it,” she told AFP, revealing that she had lived in the graveyard for 16 years.

Cambodia has witnessed rapid economic progress since it emerged from decades of civil war and the ultra-Maoist Khmer Rouge regime, which abolished private property and killed a quarter of the population from 1975-1979.

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