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Law on Construction expected to prevent structural failures

Ben Sokhean / Khmer Times Share:
Authorities conduct a search and rescue operation for workers trapped in the Kep building collapse on January 3, 2020. KT/Chor Sokunthea

Kep provincial governor Ken Satha yesterday blamed the lack of a construction law for the deadly building collapse in Kep city earlier this year, which took the lives of 36 people, including children, and injured 23 others. His statement came amid continued demands for justice and compensation from survivors and families of the victims.

Speaking during a press conference organised by the Royal Government Spokesperson Unit at the Office of the Council of Ministers yesterday, Mr Satha said the government’s working group has concluded its investigation over the accident but refused to provide details of their findings.

“We regret what happened in the past,” said Mr Satha. “Now, we have enforced the Law on Construction. This law is very strict and places the responsibility on building owners, requiring them to have their buildings undergo routine inspections.”

The law contains 22 chapters and 11 articles which seek to improve the management of the Kingdom’s construction sector, enhance sustainable development and protect the interests of owners and users of infrastructures. Despite being passed by legislative bodies in October and ratified by King Norodom Sihamoni the following month, the law was in the process of being disseminated to relevant parties at the time of collapse.

“Before, we didn’t have the law. That’s why building owners built their infrastructures without regard for safety,” said Mr Satha.

“We are disseminating information about the law to all construction companies and engineers to guarantee that they understand its provisions. They need to ensure the quality of materials before they allow the construction to begin. They need to perform their duties, which are stated in the law,” he said, noting no new construction project has taken place since the collapse in January.

He added: “The Ministry of Land Management has conducted its investigation over the [building collapse]. As for the compensation to victims, I’ll leave that in the hands of the court.”

Kampot provincial court spokesman Mann Boret said yesterday Investigating Judge Long Kesphirum is yet to finish his probe on the case.

Tep Thon, a secretary of state at the Land Management Ministry and head of the working group, previously told Khmer Times: “The construction of the building was not done according to technical standards. For example, the southwestern pillars were too weak to support the building.

“Based on technical standards, the [contractor] needs to use 16 iron bars. Instead, the project’s contractor used only eight iron bars to support each pillar.”

Building owners Ek Sarun and his wife Chhiv Sothy were arrested after the January 3 collapse and charged by Kampot Provincial Court with “manslaughter and causing involuntary bodily harm” under Articles 207 and 236 of the Criminal Code.

However, they were released after posting an $87,000 bail.

Construction worker Ouk Oeun, 48, one of the survivors who lost four family members in the tragic collapse, said yesterday he and his colleagues were summoned to testify at Kampot Provincial Court last month.

“The court asked us how much compensation we want. Our stance is the same: we demand $50,000 for each victim. We want justice to prevail. We want to see the building owners be convicted and be paid what we are due,” he said.

Sou Chhlonh, first vice-president of the Building and Wood Workers Trade Union Federation of Cambodia, said recently: “The building owners must be held accountable for the collapse because they were the ones who ran the paperwork for the building’s construction. They cannot just put all the blame on the contractor to clear themselves from blame.”

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