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Twelve more buildings to be demolished in Sihanoukville

Ben Sokhean / Khmer Times Share:
Construction workers knock down a building deemed unsafe earlier this month in Sihanoukville’s Pi commune. KT/Chor Sokunthea

Preah Sihanouk Governor Kuoch Chamroeun on Monday authorised the demolition of a dozen more recently-constructed buildings in Sihanoukville after they were deemed unsafe by a committee.

Earlier this month, Mr Chamroeun approved the demolition of two Chinese-owned buildings in Buon and Pi communes after the committee ruled the buildings were unsafe for having weak foundations, failing to meet technical standards and for developing cracks.

Ever since the collapse of a seven-storey building in Sihanoukville that killed 28 and injured 26 others, the Committee for the Inspection of the Quality of Buildings in Preah Sihanouk province has been conducting inspections across the city.

The committee is tasked with reviewing technical aspects, standards and safety of buildings under construction. It has the authority to draft and file a report to the Land Management Ministry.

Kheang Phearom, spokesman for Provincial Hall, yesterday said the plan to demolish the 12 buildings was revealed during a meeting between Mr Chamroeun and Lao Tip Seiha, secretary of state at the Land Management Ministry and head of the inspection committee.

The meeting was also attended by contractors and construction equipment suppliers, along with concrete companies.

According to a report detailing the meeting, safety issues were discovered in about 500 buildings.

A crack in one of the buildings being demolished. KT/Chor Sokunthea

“Concerns were raised regarding problems found in more than 500 buildings in Preah Sihanouk province,” the report said. “However, we have identified 14 poor-quality buildings that need to be demolished.”

“Seventy others must be re-examined by private companies to verify the quality of construction to avoid future mistakes,” it added. “The working group found some safety concerns [in the 14 buildings] and the buildings must be demolished. Mistakes were made by the contractors.”

Mr Chamroeun reportedly told committee members and provincial authorities to hold meetings with building and property owners and representatives of construction firms to address safety.

He noted all contractors must register with the Land Management Ministry and have legal permits before starting construction. Anyone who fails to adhere to his instructions will face legal action.

Mr Tip Seiha said all construction companies must comply with technical standards.

“Construction companies must adhere to their contract [with the ministry],” he said. “They must strictly inspect their construction sites to avoid a dangerous incident.”

Mr Phearom, the spokesman, yesterday said Provincial Hall will sanction anyone who fails to comply with safety standards.

“Provincial Hall will not be reluctant – or tolerate […] poor-quality buildings in order to avoid accidents,” he said. “We do not want to see another building collapse.”

Mr Phearom added that foreigners are now welcome to review construction sites.

“We welcome all foreign construction experts who want to help us review buildings under construction in Sihanoukville,” he said.

Moeun Tola, executive director of the labour rights group Central, yesterday agreed that the authorities should allow foreign experts to review construction sites.

He said authorities should reveal whether or not experts from Australia and the European Union have inspected any buildings alongside the committee.

He noted that the authorities must inspect all company permits before construction begins because demolishing a building takes time and money.

“First, we should be vigilant before new construction projects commence,” Mr Tola said. “Second, local authorities have to stop allowing construction site owners from beginning construction before they’ve obtained permits from the ministry.”

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