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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Skyscrapers reshaping city's skyline

Skyscrapers reshaping city's skyline

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Phnom Penh's modest skyline, currently crowned by the 15-story Intercontinental

Hotel, is soon to be transformed by a slate of high-rise towers presently under

construction around the city.

The 32-story OCIC Tower now under construction at the corner of Monivong Boulevard and Street 108 will become the highest building in Phnom Penh upon its scheduled completion in August 2008. The platform on top is a helicopter pad.

The largest presently underway is the

32-story Overseas Cambodian Investment Cooperation (OCIC) Tower being built at

the corner of Monivong Boulevard and Street 108, said Chatchai Netsawang,

project manager for Wen Holding Company, the firm charged with its construction.

"There are going to be more and more tall buildings like Bangkok,"

Netsawang told the Post. "We're handling several contracts and can't find enough

workers."

Complete with a two-story underground parking garage, a branch

of OCIC subsidiary Canadia Bank, and topped with a helicopter pad, the OCIC will

be the tallest building in the capital upon its scheduled completion in August

2008. This may not be true for long, industry experts told the

Post.

Underway next door, directly across from the train station, is a

18-story branch of Vattanac Bank. Less than a block away from these building

sites, on Russian Boulevard, is the 10-story headquarters of Cambodian Public

Bank.

But soon to tower over these structures is a 40- to 50-story

building scheduled to break ground in January 2008 on Koh Pich island. The Koh

Pich building is also owned by OCIC, the company that built the Soriya

Mall.

"OCIC has spent more than $100 million just on the infrastructure

in Koh Pich; filling up the land, building concrete riverbanks and so on," said

Touch Samnang, Koh Pich Project Manager for OCIC on May 14. "Our company plans

to build the Koh Pich site as high as 222 meters and between 40 to 50 floors

with conference rooms, condos and a hotel."

But the rush to grow upward

has construction firms concerned about work safety, labor issues and quality of

work. Netsawang said that the Cambodian construction workers face a "learning

curve," and most skilled labor must come from other countries.

Also in

question are long-held, but unofficial, guidelines for building height that now

appear to have been forgotten.

"In the Sangkum Reastr Niyum, as I

remember, there was a law to prohibit building tall buildings near some

important places such as the Royal Palace, Wat Phnom and along the riverside,"

said Cambodian architect Vann Molyvann on May 14. "But now I don't know whether

they still implement that law."

But an official at the Ministry of Land

Management, Urban Planning and Construction, who asked not to be named, said

there are no laws limiting the height of buildings.

"Previously we have

taken technical advice from the Phnom Penh Municipality when building any

construction located within one kilometer of the Royal Palace," the official

said. "But now, due to the price of the land increasing, and the move to attract

more investors, we might as well allow tall buildings to be built

there."

The trend toward vertical development has not come without some

growing pains. According to Sok Sovandeith, president of the Cambodian National

Federation of Building and Wood Construction, Phnom Penh's pursuit of tall

buildings has increased the danger to workers as companies do not provide

advance training. He's calling for laws to protect and compensate construction

workers who are injured on the job.

"Right now, in Phnom Penh at least 50

construction workers get injured each day and at least one worker dies each

week," said Sovandeith.

He added that on average female construction

workers earn 7,000 reils per day and men earn 8,000. He estimates there are

100,000 construction workers in Phnom Penh and 200,000 in Cambodia.

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