Days after Prime Minister Hun Sen created a committee tasked with inspecting construction permits in Preah Sihanouk province, Interior Minister Sar Kheng yesterday reported that it has already found five projects operating without proper permits.
On Sunday, the government issued a directive for the creation of the Committee for the Inspection of the Quality of Buildings in Preah Sihanouk province following the collapse of a seven-storey building that killed 28 workers.
The committee is tasked with reviewing technical aspects, standards, and safety of construction buildings. It has the authority to draft and file a report to the land Management Ministry.
Speaking to reporters after an anti-drug event in Phnom Penh, Mr Kheng yesterday said he ordered his ministry’s general administration department to review all construction buildings across the Kingdom, with Preah Sihanouk province as its priority.
He noted that in the case of Preah Sihanouk, the Land Management Ministry has discovered multiple construction projects being carried out without proper permits.
“I received information from [Land Management Minister] Chea Sophara that there were five construction sites that had no construction permits. So, it is very risky and we have to [take action],” Mr Kheng said. “I have led a meeting to review all administrative documents of construction sites in Preah Sihanouk province to see whether there are any irregularities. We will take action if there’s an issue.”
“We had the [inspection committee] review all construction sites, complete or otherwise,” he added. “It wasn’t only the governor [Yun Min] that was involved, but others might have been involved, too. I dare not say it because we need to clearly review the documents. If any officials were involved, we will take legal measures.”
On Monday, Mr Hun Sen said Mr Sophara and the inspection committee must ensure the possession of construction permits in order to prevent another collapse.
“Any building that is without a permit must be suspended,” he said. “Do not allow this case to happen again.”
“We do not need to be [officials] of the state if we do not have the ability to prevent the construction of buildings like this,” Mr Hun Sen added.
Mr Sophara yesterday said there were 160 buildings under construction or recently completed in Sihanoukville, and that the owners were told to ensure that they have permits.
“Building without a construction permit is prohibited,” he said. “I believe that we all need quality buildings that benefit the nation.”
“We do not want buildings lacking in quality that would discourage tourism and investment,” Mr Sophara added. “Our officials have already targeted buildings that cannot guarantee safety, but we also need to find enough evidence.”
The deadly building collapse resulted in the sacking of a high-ranking National Committee for Disaster Management official and the resignation of Preah Sihanouk provincial Governor Yun Min for failing to manage the construction sector in the province.
Preap Kol, executive director of Transparency International Cambodia, yesterday said he welcomed the review and supported taking legal action against officials involved.
“This is a good move – at least it helps prevent more tragedies,” Mr Kol said. “But reviewing construction permits alone is not enough. Quality of construction and building should also be checked.”