2022 Cham Communities, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

The banks of the Chroy Changva peninsula in the eastern part of Phnom Penh, where the Tonlé Sap and Mekong rivers merge, is home to a community of around 300 families who live on fishing boats in extremely precarious conditions. Many of the boat dwellers are members of the Cham[1], a predominantly Muslim minority that has its own language and history and is distinct from the Khmer people. With fishing as their main source of income, the families have lived on the river for generations, having lost everything during the Cambodian genocide by the Khmer Rouge. Up to three families sometimes live together on a fishing boat. With no formal education, the younger members of the community have poor job prospects. They seize every opportunity they get to earn a living as day laborers. 
The Cham boats are not in keeping with the modern look of Phnom Penh and the authorities have repeatedly ordered the community to leave their riverside dwellings. They were banned from fishing in front of the royal palace and then in 2012 forced to move five kilometers away from their mosque. Since then, the boats have been moored in the shadow of the $100-million Sokha Hotel, where the Cham perform their prayers in a makeshift mosque on the banks of the river. Selling fish has become difficult because the marketplace is so far away. On top of this, the fishing community now faces losing what little it still owns. Construction companies, led by the Sokimex Group, the owner of the Sokha Hotel, are forcing the community to move off the narrow strip of land where their boats are anchored.
The photo story is part of the series VANISHING CAMBODIA, which photographer Steff Gruber has been working on for a number of years and which examines the social changes taking place in the country.

[1] The Cham people make up between 1 and 2% of the Cambodian population. There are two groups of Cham, both of which belong to the Shafi branch of Sunni Islam. The ethnic Cham are of Malayo-Polynesian descent. They live predominantly in Kampong Cham, Kampot and Phnom Penh.

Genre: Reportage
Camera (digital): Nikon Z9 with Nikkor-Z zoom lens 24-70mm/2.8