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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Building law passed by NA

Building law passed by NA

Building law passed by NA

T

he National Assembly has managed to pass the first law of its current session -

the bill on urbanization and construction- before going into recess again during

the peace talks in Pyongyang.

The urbanization law seeks to regularize

construction across the country by setting up a uniform approval system.

Committees will be set up in each province and in Phnom Penh to approve every

new building in the area, and there will be a national committee to oversee

them. The committees will also draft master plans to develop their own

provinces.

The law was earlier criticized for being too vague and for

the fact that there is no protection or compensation for people who are evicted

from land earmarked for development. Observers also commented that it would be

difficult to implement the law without a land law to clear confusion over land

ownership.

Despite a nearly four days of debate, very little of the

government's draft law was actually amended. While the debate was lengthy,

criticism came from the same vocal few MPs and the amendments they moved were

nearly all outvoted.

"Members seemed ready to accept verbal assurances

from Minister Van Mouly Vann that there would be no abuses, they would not

insist that it be made clear in the law itself," says BLDP MP Son Chai, one of

the most vocal opponents to parts of the bill.

He says the vagueness and

loopholes will "only make it easier for people on the committees to take

bribes."

One MP says that most members were unaware of the details of the

law, and wanted it passed quickly so that "more important laws could be

considered."

Though the debates extended late into the evening, members

had to wait for more than an hour on two occasions because there was not a

quorum.

The few amendments that were made dealt with procedural issues

like which committees one would have to get permission from and how long the

process should take.

According to the new law, a person wishing to build

a hotel in Siem Reap, for example, would have to approach the provincial

committee with papers relating to the acquisition of land and building plans

certified by an architect.

After that, it will go to the National

Committee and then to the relevant ministry, in this case the Ministry of

Tourism. Each stage could take up to 45 days after all papers are submitted.

Without this, a building could be declared illegal and removed.

Some

members pointed out that the law makes no distinction between commercial and

residential buildings. Poor people wishing to build a small house would be

unaware of the law's requirements, have no proof of land ownership because many

land titles have been destroyed and no access either to an architect or legal

counsel.

On the last day of the debate, Finance Minister Sam Rainsy

proposed that four new articles be added. They should specify how land ownership

would be determined if there is confusion, assure people of a right to appeal a

government decision to evict them or demolish their houses, ensure that affected

people will be consulted in advance when a development master plan is drawn up

and stipulate that if the government uses private land for public purposes, it

would have to pay the owner of the land.

All the proposals were outvoted.

Says Son Chai: "We have been elected to protect people's interests, but no one

seems willing to do it openly."

The government's response to most queries

was that the issue would be taken care of in the 11 sub-decrees that are to be

issued within two months to implement in detail the general principles of the

law. They will not be debated, only signed and issued by minister Van Mouly

Van.

The Assembly then was adjourned until June 6 because many members

were in Pyongyang. However, with the peace talks lasting just one day, it is

unclear at press time when it will meet again.

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