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Anti-corruption chief rejects need for Sihanoukville building collapse graft probe

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
A construction site in Sihanoukville. Post staff

Anti-corruption chief rejects need for Sihanoukville building collapse graft probe

Anti-corruption Unit chief Om Yentieng on Friday declined to launch an investigation into the recent seven-storey building collapse in Sihanoukville, saying it did not involve corruption.

Last Thursday, Cambodian Youth Party president Pich Sros, who is rotating chair of the Supreme Consultation Forum, announced on his Facebook page that he would request Prime Minister Hun Sen to invite Yentieng to a meeting under the forum’s framework to discuss the collapse.

But Yentieng said at a press conference on Friday that the incident did not involve corruption that required his unit to launch an investigation.

“No one has suggested corruption in this case. It is purely about a building collapsing. Please check the articles [of the law]. Only if there is a suggestion of wrongdoing can we investigate. It is completely not corruption related."

“I see that you, the rotating chair, want to invite His Excellency [the Minister of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction and Deputy Prime Minister] Chea Sophara and Om Yentieng to clarify this building collapse case."

“I won’t do so, sorry, because it does not involve me. Please invite only His Excellency Chea Sophara because it is about construction technicalities and legal permission. It does not involve my side,” he said.

Yentieng said he considered the case as just a crime in which the perpetrators were not afraid of the authorities.

“They were not afraid. Why do you want to talk about corruption, I would like to ask? This is a case of non-compliance with the authorities [rules and regulations]. Why ask me to investigate? It is not corruption,” he said.

However, Sros told The Post on Sunday that his intention in inviting the Anti-Corruption Unit chief was not focused only on the building collapse.

He said he wanted Yentieng to give a clear indication of the unit’s procedures as there was a degree of doubt amongst his forum.

Sros also said he had changed his mind and had cancelled the request to Prime Minister Hun Sen even before Yentieng’s refusal.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Yentieng rejected the need for a corruption investigation. post staff

“We decided to cancel the summons before Yentieng declined because we saw a letter from the Ministry of Land [Management, Urban Planning and Construction], so we will let the authority carry out its tasks first."

“But we are not leaving Preah Sihanouk province. We will continue to monitor construction and see if the situation improves,” he said.

On Thursday, the ministry sent a letter to Hun Sen requesting a decision on some “necessary measures” aimed at preventing illegal construction.

“The measures apply to construction sites of hotels, joint residential buildings, commercial buildings, factory buildings, handicraft buildings and other buildings that have no permission or are constructed differently from their technical specifications,” the letter said.

The first of the measures was for the ministry to cease providing electricity to offending construction sites.

The letter also suggested that the Ministry of Industry and Handicraft stop such sites’ clean water supply and that the Ministry of Public Works and Transport not allow them to connect to public sewers.

Fourth, it urged the relevant ministries and institutions not to provide businesses with permits and, fifth, the letter said, the Ministry of Information and relevant authorities should not permit the owners to run advertisements.

The Post understands that there had been no response from Hun Sen as of Sunday afternoon.

Affiliated Network for Social Accountability executive director San Chey said the request for the Anti-Corruption Unit to launch an investigation is legitimate because there were several indications that the Sihanoukville building collapse may have involved corruption.

“This building collapse could have involved corrupt influences. We have to investigate the land leaser who rented the land to the Chinese national because we need to find out if they were influential people."

“I think it involves fear and that’s why the authorities did not dare to prevent [the construction] as it was banned two times already. Behind the defiance, there must not be any influence or any power that made the Chinese nationals not listen,” Chey said.

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