The Ministry of Justice has deputised 360 officials from the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, granting them limited judicial police powers to perform their inspection duties according to the construction law, Criminal Code and other provisions currently in force.

According to land management minister Chea Sophara and justice minister Koeut Rith, the 360 officials come from nine different departments within the land management ministry. They include, among others, the general department of construction and the department for research and land surveying.

Before performing their functions, the officials must first take an oath before the courts in the provinces to which they are assigned.

The announcement said the officials will have jurisdiction over the administrative centres where they are assigned to work and are expected to carry out their duties in accordance with the law.

Land ministry spokesman Seng Lot could not be reached for comment on March 24.

Justice ministry spokesman Chin Malin said the move was necessary as, by law, only the police can engage in law enforcement activity.

“Specialists within other ministries who routinely engage in the prevention of criminal offences by investigating such activities and apprehending the offenders must be deputised by the justice ministry to ensure their work is done legally,” he explained.

Malin noted that the move was not without precedent as the justice ministry had previously taken similar actions in the past in order to allow officials from other ministries to carry out law enforcement activities related to their areas of expertise.

Malin said all officials who have been deputised are required to take an oath of duty where they pledge to put national interests and public security before any other considerations.

Kheang Puthy, chairman of the Association of Cambodian Real Estate Professionals, supported the move, saying he hoped it would tighten inspection of construction sites and raise the standard of quality for Cambodia’s construction sector.

Puthy pointed to the collapse of the buildings in Sihanoukville and Kep town as reasons for these inspectors to wield increased authority.

“In the future, more and more high-rise buildings will be going up and their construction needs to be closely inspected. Penalties must be imposed on anyone who breaks the law or any developer who tries to cheat on construction,” Puthy said.