A Change of Guard

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Friday, 22 April 2016

Official urges building reform

Construction labourers work on a residential development yesterday in Phnom Penh.
Construction labourers work on a residential development yesterday in Phnom Penh. Scott Howes

Official urges building reform
Thu, 21 April 2016 ppp
Kong Meta and Yesenia Amaro

A senior official with the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction this week acknowledged that the ministry had failed to regulate the construction industry and must act to address that shortcoming, though those in the industry yesterday said they were sceptical of the government’s commitment.

Ministry undersecretary of state Tea Chanlyda on Tuesday sent a letter to recently appointed Minister Chea Sophara citing three areas that need to be corrected in order to get a handle on the booming sector.

The ministry had neglected to regulate and control construction sites to ensure safety for the workers and the quality of the construction; it had failed to regulate the construction profession; and had not encouraged local authorities to help prevent construction violations, Chanlyda wrote in the letter, urging the ministry “to speed up the legal works and technical works”.

Chanlyda declined to comment on the letter yesterday, as did ministry spokesman Seng Lot.

Construction accidents, sometimes fatal, are not uncommon in the Kingdom, and workers with little more than sandals in the way of safety gear are commonplace on Cambodian jobsites.

One 40-year-old worker at a Sino Great Wall International Engineering construction site in Phnom Penh said yesterday he didn’t feel safe on the job.

“I’m afraid of falling down because we don’t use harnesses,” he said yesterday. “We would like the government and ministry [officials] to come see how we work and the risks we face, but I think they will never do that.”

Cambodia currently doesn’t have construction regulations in place, and several workers at construction sites could be seen not wearing harnesses or helmets yesterday.

Sok Kin, leader of the Building and Wood Workers Trade Union Federation of Cambodia, said construction workers endure dangerous situations as safety checks are nonexistent.

The situation is even grimmer for those employed by small construction companies, which “cannot provide enough safety materials for the workers”, he added.

The union would like to see the government finally take action, but they are not optimistic.

“So far, we’ve never seen anyone . . . come to inspect,” Kin said, adding that by his count, in 2015, a total of 30 construction workers died.

Vitou Seng, executive director with the International Business Chamber of Cambodia, said members with the IBC and the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors had a private meeting with ministry officials on Tuesday.

Government officials assured them that the construction law was on schedule to be adopted by the end of this year, she said.

“They informed us that the Construction Law is almost done,” she said. “They showed commitment.”

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