A MOVE to regulate the building spree across the country, with a new
Urbanization and Construction Law could hit the poor hard, according to a legal
expert. The law was being debated in the National Assembly as the Post went to
It was drafted by famed architect and Council of Ministers member
Van Mouly Van will set up a special National Committee and similar bodies at
provincial levels. The committee will have the power to grant or withhold
permission to construct dwellings and also potentially the power to remove
buildings deemed 'illegal'.
These bodies will also draw up 'master-plans'
to develop the areas under their jurisdiction and impose some order on the
chaotic construction work currently being undertaken.
A legal expert who
requested anonymity said: "The law requires any construction or even
modification of a building to be approved by a committee and accompanied by
detailed drawings, title deeds and an architect's approval - otherwise the
building could be labeled illegal and removed.
"Squatters and other poor
urban dwellers rarely possess proof of land ownership in the form of titles or
letters - which were usually obtained by bribing the relevant SOC officials.
"They have little access to detailed drawings or architects and no means
of redress against the removal of their houses, they would probably be the worst
affected by the new law."
He added: "Master plans are an outdated idea
and the people affected usually have no say in what is going to happen to them.
"There is a need to move carefully after the experiences in countries
like Malaysia and Indonesia where people who got in the way of 'master plans'
were evicted without redress ."
However construction companies are
welcoming the new law which attempts to centralize the planning authorities'
They say that under existing procedures there is a need to get
permission to build from several different planning authorities which increases
paperwork and the possibility of bribery.
But there is also confusion
about the legality of the new law which attempts to govern land-use because it
is based on the earlier October 1992 SOC land law which does not recognize
private ownership of land. Article 1 of the SOC law states the government owns
all land though Cambodians can use and bequeath it.
"If we go by the SOC
law, this new land-use law cannot exist because no one owns land in the first
place," says Son Chhay, Chairman of the Assembly's Commission on Education,
Culture, Religious Affairs and Tourism. Legal observers point out the law
logically should have come after a new comprehensive land titles law had been
passed because presently there is enormous confusion over the legality of
private land titles.
Chhay also says the law attempts to cover a too wide
an area and is therefore not precise enough. He said: "It even has provisions on