The Preah Sihanouk provincial authority has warned it will take legal action against the Sihanoukville Autonomous Port if it continues to unlawfully demolish compartments in a 50-year-old building where port staff members live.
On Tuesday, the Preah Sihanouk provincial administrative working group, the Department of Land Management, the Department of Culture, and a group of officials inspected the construction site located in Group 5, Village 2, Commune III, and warned port officials to stop the demolition of roofs and walls.
It was the second warning issued to the port, with the first coming on March 26 for the same offences, according to Preah Sihanouk Provincial Hall spokesman Kheang Phearum.
He said if port officials don’t heed their final warning, the authorities will implement measures according to the law.
Phearum conceded that the state-owned building is old and may be dangerous, but it wasn’t for port officials to decide its fate.
“The work is in the hands of the experts who have to check legal documents to see if the building needs to be lawfully demolished or not.
“Once the legality of the matter is understood, the owner may, in fact, be allowed to demolish or renovate the building in compliance with the law,” he said.
Preah Sihanouk provincial Department of Land Management deputy director Bun Vutha, who inspected the building, told The Post that more than 20 compartments in the structure serve as homes for the port’s staff.
He said the area is under the control of the state, and since the building is 50 years old, the port must write to the relevant departments requesting to officially inspect it.
“We have instructed the workers and representatives of the autonomous port not to continue demolishing and repairing the building until it has been properly requested and approved by a professional official inspecting it,” he said.
Port representative Srun Lim said that because the building is so old and leaky, the port management decided to make immediate repairs at the request of staff who encountered difficulties while living there.
He said after receiving the new guidance, the port would immediately file an application to repair the building following legal procedure. However, he could not confirm when it would submit the necessary documents.
“We did not ask for permission because the building was very leaky and our workers requested assistance, so we just repaired it, thinking it would be okay.
“Then they came down and banned us from working on it. And now, we were advised to ask for permission, so we are preparing to do it,” he said.