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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Local expert claims illegal construction linked to corruption

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Nagaworld was ordered to dismantle a parts of its expansion. Hong Menea

Local expert claims illegal construction linked to corruption

A local expert has said that with the absence of a master plan for Phnom Penh or a comprehensive construction code, collusion with corrupt officials has led to illegal construction in the city.

This claim was solidified last week when the government warned that it would legally punish officials and companies that have colluded together to allow for construction on public parks and sidewalks, threatening that these buildings would have to be dismantled immediately if found to be not following their approved design plan.

Dr. Van Vat, an independent analyst on construction sector and an expert on land management, said that without proper regulation, illegal building would likely continue unabated. However, he noted that the government’s sub-decree 86 on the policy of construction could thwart this activity once implemented.

He went on to say the recent discovery by Prime Minister Hun Sen about Nagaworld’s expansion which was deemed in violation of a public sidewalk and encroaching on land owned by the Buddhist institute was merely a shot across the bow towards construction malfeasance.

“The prime minister chose Nagaworld particularly to show that it severely impacts the enactment of future regulation and law,” he said, adding that national and local officials have long ignored these problems.

Vat went on to say that the problem of “illegal construction is complex” as it falls under numerous officials including those at the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and construction, as well as City Hall. Nevertheless, he said that this issue is one of deliberate negligence.

“Sometimes, though, the national and local authorities know that the construction is illegal and could affect the public good, but they still allow them to build because there is no law to punish them anyways,” he said, adding that these officials use their power “for their own advantage” while the anti-corruption law in Cambodia remains an ineffective deterrent.

However, Vat said that without proper city planning for the capital, officials can appear hamstrung. “We cannot prohibit people from building because the local authorities do not have a policy to abide by.”

Nevertheless, he stated that if the local authorities and officials do not respect the construction permit process, “even though it is a long process” illegal construction “is due to corruption.”

When the Prime Minister took to his official Facebook account last week after happening upon the Nagaworld expansion, he ordered for certain sections to be dismantled because it encroached on public space. While noting that these infractions are nationwide, he demanded that relevant ministries take action to crack down on this practice.

Long Dimanche, City Hall spokesman, told Post Property that City Hall has previously guided local officials on the use of sidewalks and public parks, as well as lakes and canals.

“City Hall would strive to better enforce construction following the government’s warning. We are committed to regulating [construction],” he said.

Seng Lot, spokesman of the Ministry of Urban Planning, Construction and Land Management said that although the Ministry does not have a land management law, sub-decree 86 and 42 could insure that construction is properly carried out under tighter scrutiny by officials and engineers. Meanwhile, he said that those that choose to build illegally will encounter a loss.

“To all the constructions that affect the public orders and property, the government will regulate it to better arrange the city.” he said. “We have always followed the Prime Minister’s commands, while we have also demanded people and the private companies cooperate with the ministry.”

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