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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Building’s owner unknown

Building’s owner unknown

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Amid safety fears in the construction industry, authorities yesterday refused to reveal the owner of a brand-new industrial building that crashed to the ground in Phnom Penh on Sunday, just days before hundreds were to have set foot in it.

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Sen Sok district governor Khoun Sreng said authorities would investigate the collapse of a 100-metre-long section of the empty building, which measured 160 by 40 metres.

“City hall has created a committee to inspect the damage,” he said.

But when asked who had constructed the building and who owned the land it crashed into, Khoun Sreng quickly ended his phone conversation with the Post.

A security guard at the site said on Sunday that an inauguration ceremony – expected to have drawn hundreds of people – had been scheduled for this Saturday.

Koe Santhoth, Phnom Penh Thmey commune police chief, said construction workers were using excavators at the site yesterday to remove damaged parts of the building ahead of a possible “reconstruction”.

“I think the owner of the building could be a relative of some high-ranking officer,” he said.

“I am a low-ranking police officer. How can I find their name and number for you to contact them?”

Sar Bamnong, deputy chief in charge of administration at the Phnom Penh municipal urbanisation and construction department, said he could not say who owned the land or who constructed the building.

A worker at a neighbouring site on Monday, who did not want to be named, said Zhen Tai Garment Company had been moving equipment into the factory before it collapsed.

Kea Chea Kea, chief of administration at Zhen Tai, said the company did not own the land.

“My garment-factory owner planned to rent the new building. Now the building has collapsed, our workers will stay in the old building,” she said, adding that she did not know who owned the building.

“[We] would not rent it now even if it were rebuilt, because we are afraid it would collapse again.”

Sunny Soo, country head of property company Knight Frank, said a lack of quality-control checks in the construction industry meant that from the moment the government approved a development, the owner – and anyone who used the building – was at the mercy of the developer’s ethics.

“In other countries, at each stage of construction there are reviews, and work has to be certified by independent professionals. Engineers are required to be on site to ensure regulations and standards,” he said.

“In Cambodia, anyone wanting to build will be approved so long as they provide certain documents about the progress of building. They rarely check where these documents have come from.

“Here, you can even find buildings that were built before they were approved.”

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