Illegal building sites to have power cut

The government is to act against illegal construction sites nationwide by cutting off their electricity and water and halting the supply of materials.

The measures come as the latest move against unlicensed projects after 28 people were killed and 26 injured following the collapse on June 22 of a seven-storey building which was under-construction in Sihanoukville.

They follow a request from the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction last month. Twenty-three newly formed working groups are inspecting the design and construction standards of buildings in Preah Sihanouk province.

A letter signed by Council of Ministers secretary of state Hing Thoraksy, released on Friday following approval from Prime Minister Hun Sen, lays out a five-point plan for five ministers to implement.

It instructs the Ministry of Mines and Energy to cut off electricity to all illegal construction sites, while the Ministry of Industry and Handicrafts was ordered not to supply them with water and the Ministry of Public Works and Transport was told not connect them to the sewage system, except for workers living onsite.

“The Ministry of Information must not permit the advertising of residential and commercial properties, hotels, factories and all other buildings being constructed without permits or to the proper standards,” the letter said.

The measures were requested by Minister of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction Chea Sophara in late June. His ministry has been tasked with carrying out the inspections.

The ministry’s spokesman Seng Lot told The Post on Sunday that it had recently decided to create a further six working groups to carry out the checks, in addition to the 17 already formed.

The relevant ministries are to collaborate further in the national inspection and management of construction sites, even in provinces yet to experience problems, Lot said.

“Working groups have been checking construction sites in Preah Sihanouk province for more than a week now. They have been instructed to check that everything is in accordance with legal standards and the law.”

“We have so far inspected more than 100 construction sites. I cannot comment further as the working groups are still carrying out checks and I have yet to see the detailed reports,” he said.

Lot also declined to comment on the cause of the building collapse in Sihanoukville on June 22, saying the specialist working groups had yet to complete their investigation.

Preah Sihanouk provincial spokesperson Kheang Phearum said that local authorities had suspended a number of construction sites operating without permits since checks began following the recent tragedy. Two Chinese nationals have been detained in regards to the Sihanoukville building collapse, he said.

San Chey, the executive director of the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability (Ansa), called for greater transparency regarding the inspection of construction sites.

“Most of the construction projects belong to Chinese nationals. The inspections have only just begun, but we want in-depth reports to be released publicly. We want the reports to reveal where there have been irregularities or illegal activity, who was behind them and how they were dealt with.”

“Is a further investigation to be launched to ascertain whether corruption is behind the issue?” Chey asked.

Of the four Chinese nationals held over June’s Sihanoukville building collapse, its owner Chen Kun, 39, was charged with involuntary manslaughter, causing bodily harm and causing destruction of property under articles 207, 236 and 414 of the Criminal Code.

Construction contractor Deng Xin Gui, 48; construction worker Gao Yu, 29; and a 43-year-old woman Xie Ya Ping, who oversaw the site, have been charged as accomplices under Article 29.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) issued a statement expressing its concerns over the possible risk to thousands of construction workers.

“Such risks can be quickly prevented. The resolution of this issue demands measures across many sectors.”

“These include the review of regulations and their implementation in the construction sector, the introduction of health and safety and construction safety standards, an increase in inspections and ‘zero accident’ campaigns, as well as the promotion of a safe working culture in this sector,” the ILO said.

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