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Preah Sihanouk chief halts construction for checks

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Kuoch Chamroeun (Right), new Preah Sihanouk provincial governor led a team of specialists to inspect several such construction sites yesterday. Supplied

Preah Sihanouk chief halts construction for checks

New Preah Sihanouk provincial governor Kuoch Chamroeun has ordered the immediate halt to the construction of all steel-framed structures in the province to allow for the inspection of building standards.

Specialists from the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction are to carry out the checks.

The move comes after an under-construction seven-storey steel-framed building collapsed in Sihanoukville on June 22, killing 28 people and injuring 26.

Provincial spokesperson Kheang Phearum told The Post on Wednesday that Chamroeun had led a team of specialists to inspect several such construction sites the previous afternoon.

Following the checks, he said, the recently appointed governor ordered that the construction of all steel-framed buildings in the province be suspended, pending their inspection by Ministry of Land Management experts.

“The order was made to suspend the building of all steel-framed structures temporarily in order to enable specialist officials to study and assess technical standards before construction continues,” Phearum said.

The ministry’s specialist team was now inspecting all such sites and their results would be disclosed soon, he added.

Taking a break from inspection work on Tuesday, Chamroeun visited a Japanese family whose restaurant was destroyed in the recent disaster in Sihanoukville, granting them permission to build a temporary home on their rented land.

He also urged provincial authorities to speed up the processing of construction permits for the family so they could get their business operating again as soon as possible.

Cheap Sotheary, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, lauded the governor’s move but called on the specialists to conduct even more rigorous inspections.

“I request that not only is construction suspended, but also all legal documents are checked. Are they operating legally? Do the companies have insurance against accidents?” she said.

Sotheary also requested that technical standards and safety protections for construction workers be examined because, she said, in the past many companies had failed to provide even basic protective headwear.

“I am worried about construction workers’ safety. I want them to have insurance and receive compensation from the construction companies. In the past, I have seen workers at risk of falling from buildings, while people have been injured by falling construction materials."

“So I request the authorities inspect all sites and not wait until accidents happen,” she said.

Several emergency meetings have been held in the province following the recent building collapse that claimed the lives of 28 people.

On Monday, some 100 representatives from union federations, local communities, national and international civil society organisations and human rights advocates issued a joint statement calling on the government to ensure construction quality and the safety of workers.

The statement also put forward a five-point plan to address their concerns.

Among the suggestions was an immediate suspension of all construction work in the province pending inspection and assessment by specialist institutions to ensure that every project was authorised and complied with quality and safety standards.

The statement also urged regular, effective and transparent checks on building sites throughout the country to inspect working conditions and safety standards.

On June 26, Minister of Land Management Chea Sophara called for a committee to inspect building design quality and construction standards in the province by carrying out thorough checks at all ongoing projects.

Lao Tip Seiha, secretary of state at the Ministry of Land Management, who is chairing the inspection committee, could not be reached for comment by The Post on Wednesday.

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