King Norodom Sihamoni has signed off on a new law that will see unlicensed construction company officials punished with a maximum of 15 years in prison if a worker is to die due to negligence.

The Law on Construction, passed by the National Assembly and the Senate in October and signed off by the King on November 2, goes into immediate effect.

Consisting of 22 Chapters and 111 Articles, it details punishments that range from fines, the revoking of licences and imprisonment.

Articles 95 to 102 detail those who work independently in the construction sector without permission or a licence, those who install construction materials not of prescribed quality and those who do not use construction materials of a specified standard.

Article 103 states: “All offences as described in Articles 94 to 102 of this law will be punishable by between five and 10 years in prison if they result in the permanent disability of victims. And in the event of death, those found responsible can be punished by between seven and 15 years in prison.”

Those responsible for unprofessional construction plans or who violate a ban, stop-work order or instructions to postpone construction by the authorities will face similar punishments as described in Article 103.

The law states that those who cause injury to people or damage to property due to carelessness will be fined, have their licence revoked and be suspended from working in the construction sector.

However, the law allows any completed unlicensed construction to obtain the necessary permits and make changes where necessary. Failing this, those responsible will be punished if they fail to meet the requirements within a set timeframe.

Approval of the law may have been hastened by recent casualties in Preah Sihanouk province after a seven-storey building collapsed, killing 28 people and injuring 26 others.

Social analyst Meas Nee welcomed the new law as it would improve safety.

He said it would ensure better construction quality in Cambodia. But, he said, the law would prove ineffective unless it was applied fairly across the board.

“As we know, major construction companies are normally backed by powerful people or officials. So construction inspection officials, such as those in land management, are not brave sometimes. Such a practice is normal in Cambodia, which prevents law enforcement from being effective,” Nee said.

He called on the relevant enforcement officials to use the law correctly to protect people and effectively manage construction in Cambodia.

He said the spirit of the law should be applauded as it aimed to protect the interests of the people and society.