Blood bricks embody the converging traumas of modern slavery and climate change in our urban age. Cambodia is in the midst of a construction boom.
The building of office blocks, factories, condominiums, housing estates, hotels, and shopping malls is pushing its
capital city upwards. But this vertical drive into the skies, and the country’s status as one of Asia’s fastest growing economies, hides a darker side to Phnom Penh’s ascent. Building projects demand bricks in large quantities, and there is a profitable domestic brick industry supplying them. This industry relies upon a multigenerational workforce of adults and children trapped in debt bondage – one of the most prevalent forms of modern slavery in the world. Tens of thousands of debt-bonded families in Cambodia extract, mould, and fire clay in hazardous conditions to meet Phnom Penh’s insatiable appetite for bricks. This exploitation is a violation of national laws and international human rights treaties which Cambodia is signatory of. Blood bricks raise the question, who is the city built for? And whose lives are being sacrificed in the long shadows of its peaks and penthouses?
back to the rural villages once called home, the report traces how urban ‘development’ is built on unsustainable levels of debt taken on by rural families struggling to farm in one of the most climate vulnerable countries in the world. In trying to repay loans taken on to cope with the destructive impacts of climate change on agrarian production, families from rural villages across Cambodia are forced to leave their homes to live and work in brick kilns from which they may never escape.
Read the full report here.