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Ministry issues written directive to improve construction safety

Ben Sokhean / Khmer Times Share:
Foreign investments have brought a construction boom in Sihanoukville. KT/Chor Sokunthea

The Land Management Ministry has issued a directive banning the construction of all buildings without a permit in the Kingdom.

The directive also bans construction workers from living in construction sites.

It was issued on Friday and signed by Land Management Minister Chea Sophara. It came into force with immediate effect.

In it, Mr Sophara stressed on the prohibition of workers and people from staying in any building under construction, even temporarily, and of people from entering construction sites.

The ministry also instructed all relevant authorities, including provincial land management department officials to strengthen legal action against those who flout the laws.

“There is an absolute ban on all construction, repairs or renovation work without permits,” the directive said. “There is also an absolute ban on people staying in under-construction buildings, even temporarily. People who are not involved in construction work are also strictly prohibited from entering the sites.”

A supervisor, white helmet, observes workers. KT/Chor Sokunthea

“If the ministry finds any violation to the ban, the authorities must take immediate action to suspend the construction,” the directive noted. “In case the builders continue with the construction, the authorities must build a case and send it to the court based on existing laws.”

In the directive, Mr Sophara forbids builders from carrying out construction work or building demolition without a licence or certificate provided by the ministry and prohibits construction work or demolition which are not overseen by responsible engineers.

“Inspectors must verify that measurements and the location of the constructions are following the approved building plans,” the directive said. “Only construction companies with a licence from the Ministry…can become contractors.”

“Authorities must assign officials to regularly inspect the quality and safety of the buildings,” it added. “In case [the inspectors] find that the construction or demolition is not being done according to technical specifications or building plan …. the authorities must take action to suspend it.”

Land Management spokesman Seng Lot yesterday refused to comment further on the directive.

According to a ministry statement yesterday, Mr Sophara is due to attend a meeting with more than 4,000 construction and electrical engineers in the capital tomorrow to inform them about the new “Law on Construction” for professionals in the construction industry.

It noted that the meeting is aimed at strengthening the quality and safety of buildings in the Kingdom, clarify the principle of the new construction law, requirement for the issuance of a construction permit and how inspections of building and construction sites are carried out.

The meeting is also aimed at allowing participants to raise their views on the new law.

Speaking to reporters during a press conference to end rescue operations at the scene of the deadly building collapse in Kep province early this month, Prime Minister Hun Sen said that the draft Law on Construction was approved by the National Assembly in October and would become law soon.

“I believe that after the law comes into effect, such incidents of [building collapses] will be reduced or permanently eliminated,” he said.

The move came after three buildings, including the latest one in Kep, collapsed in the last seven months.

In June, the collapse of a seven-storey Chinese-owned building in Sihanoukville killed 28 and injured 26 workers. Authorities have said that it was built without a permit and local officials ordered construction work to be halted several times, but the builders did not pay heed.

In December, three people were killed and more than a dozen sustained critical injuries in a temple building collapse in Siem Reap province’s Siem Reap city.

Early this month, another seven-storey building under construction collapsed in Kep province’s Kep city, killing 36 people, including children, and injuring 23 others.

Sou Sokhun, director of the Pailin provincial land department, yesterday said that he had already received the directive from the land ministry.

“We just received it and we have not implemented it yet. There are workers still staying inside construction buildings,” he said. “However, we will now cooperate with the provincial labour department to instruct the companies to stop letting workers stay in under-construction buildings and inform them of the other provisions in the directive.”

Construction workers in Sihanoukville. KT/Chor Sokunthea

Sok Kin, president of the Building and Wood Workers Trade Union Federation of Cambodia, yesterday welcomed the move, saying the directive will help to reduce untoward incidents.

“I strongly support the new directive because it is a good measure,” he said. “I think this directive was made to handle safety issues after the recent building collapses.”

However, Mr Kin noted that only issuing a directive will not eliminate the problem.

“I think they should pay more attention to implementing the directive,” he said. “Sometimes a directive is issued but companies do not follow them. The authorities need to do regular inspections.”

Mr Kin said it is important that buildings in the Kingdom are safe and of good quality.

“The good quality and safety of construction will benefit all,” he said. “It will help to save workers’ lives and ensure that constructions are properly done.”

“However, I have noticed that government directives are only effective in the short term and after that enforcement becomes inactive just like what is happening with the Committee for the Inspection of the Quality of Buildings in Preah Sihanouk province,” Mr Kin added.

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