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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Construction work progress continues amid illegal workers’ arrest

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Workers being arrested at the Sino Great Wall construction site last week. Heng Chivoan

Construction work progress continues amid illegal workers’ arrest

Since the start of the year, department authorities at the Ministry of Interior have arrested more than 10,000 illegal workers, with the bulk of them being construction workers. However, industry experts and investors are split on the opinions that the arrest will impinge on the development of the sector.

Meng Chamroeun, project manager of mixed-use development Olympia City, told Post Property on Monday that the arrests of workers on construction sites do not affect the efficiency of developments, and especially that of Olympia City’s because “we do not employ illegal workers”.

Out of abidance by laws set by the government, Chamroeun said, “All the foreign experts that our company hires have legal working visas. Five per cent of our workforce are foreign experts from countries like Korea, Thailand, China, and Vietnam.”

He added, “For the decoration team, we need to hire foreign experts because they are skillful and they work faster than local decorators,” explaining that with the rapid development of the industry, there is a lack of human resources although there does exist a good number of skilled local decoration experts. On the other hand, workers dealing in laying the concrete and metal frameworks of the building are predominantly local.

Touch Samnang, deputy director of OCIC, one the largest local construction and real estate developers, said they do not employ illegal workers, but 20 to 30 per cent of their experts are foreigners because they work more productively, with the end-product being of more premium quality and aesthetics.

One foreign expert’s work is equivalent to that of three local experts, because the foreigners have more experience and were trained by proper schools, according to Samnang.

Approximately 10,000 workers and experts, most of whom are Cambodian, are employed by OCIC.

In terms of current wages, unskilled workers normally earn from 20,000 to 24,000 riel a day, whereas skilled workers can bring home between 24,000 and 40,000 riel a day.

Sear Rithy, chairman of Worldbridge Land, which is investing almost $1 billion into condominium projects The Bridge and The Peak, said his company has never employed illegal workers, and finds it a step in the right direction that the authority is now paying more attention to construction sites.

He said, “I support this course of action. I do not support the employment of illegal workers.”

Uk Hai Sela, head of investigation and law enforcement at the Ministry of Interior’s immigration department, affirmed the department has arrested more than 10,000 illegal workers who have come to work in Cambodia.

Ninety per cent of those rounded up are of Vietnamese, Thai, Chinese, and Filipino nationalities. He also confirmed that most of the workers work in the construction sector, while a scattered number are employed in carpentry shops, coffee shops, and massage parlours.

He believes that “the arrests of illegal workers will affect the construction sector and ongoing constructions. It will slow down the construction, so developers should use legal workers to avoid losing money and time.”

“The department will push this work forward. It won’t stop,” Sela stated.

Sela said that arrested illegal workers will be sent back to their countries, and they will have the opportunity to return to work in Cambodia only on the basis of possessing proper visas and passports.

The comments come in the wake of 190 Chinese workers being nabbed at the Sino Great Wall International Engineering’s building without work permits last week.

However, a representative of Oxley Worldbridge, which has contracted Sino Great Wall to build The Peak and The Bridge, two massive mixed-developments in the Tonle Bassac commune, said the company had lodged applications for the workers’ permits, though the process was not complete.



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