Spotlight: Cambodian PM vows tough action against unlicensed construction projects after fatal building collapse

Source: Xinhua| 2019-06-25 09:32:23|Editor: Wu Qin
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by Mao Pengfei, Nguon Sovan

PREAH SIHANOUK, Cambodia, June 25 (Xinhua) -- Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen ordered the competent authorities to take harsh action against unlicensed construction projects after an unlicensed building collapsed on Saturday in the coastal province of Preah Sihanouk, killing 28 workers and injuring 26 others.

"From now on, there will be no more forgiveness. This accident gives us a lesson," he told reporters on Monday during a visit to the site of the collapsed building, which was constructed without a license.

Hun Sen said the government on Sunday set up an inter-ministerial committee led by Deputy Prime Minister Chea Sophara, minister of land management, urban planning and construction, in order to inspect the quality of all under-construction buildings in southwestern Preah Sihanouk province.

"Chea Sophara has to assign the 'real competent' experts to provide an accurate evaluation to all buildings that are under construction, and any sites that have no construction licenses must be suspended. We cannot let such a case happen again," he said.

The prime minister said he would fire within 24 hours any officials who defended unlicensed construction sites.

Meanwhile, Hun Sen said the 65-hour rescue operation ended on Monday evening, but the probe into the cause of the collapse and the people involved in the collapsed building is still going on.

So far, four people have been detained for questioning over the collapse, including the owner of the building and two contractors.

The prime minister said following the tragic accident, Preah Sihanouk Provincial Governor Yun Min had stepped down, and Senior Minister Nhim Vanda, the first vice-president of the National Committee for Disaster Management, was sacked for irresponsibility and lying.

The prim minister reiterated that Chinese investors and tourists are very important for Cambodia's socio-economic development.

A huge influx of Chinese investment to Preah Sihanouk province will transform the coastal province into a large commercial hub in the future, Hun Sen said.

"If there are no Chinese investors in Sihanoukville city, do we have these high-rise buildings?" he said. "Don't turn an ember of the fire into a big fire to destroy relations and investment atmosphere that we have created."

The Chinese Embassy in Cambodia released a statement on Sunday to express the condolences to the families of the victims and wish a speedy recovery of all that were injured in the accident.

Meanwhile, the embassy immediately mobilized Chinese enterprises and chambers of commerce in Cambodia including excavators to help with the rescue.

The Chinese Chamber of Commerce in Cambodia is also coordinating follow-up rescue operations.

"We have launched a donation initiative to all members of Chinese-funded enterprises to raise 100,000 U.S. dollars for the families of the victims and the injured. We will deliver the money as soon as the rescue work is over," the Chinese Chamber of Commerce said on Monday.

The Chinese Chamber of Commerce called on member units and Chinese-funded enterprises to place great emphasis on safety in production, obey the law, and put the life first. "We should investigate hidden perils to prevent similar incidents, ensure the quality of projects, and establish a good image of Chinese-funded enterprises."

Or Saroeun, a spokesman for Preah Sihanouk province, said that the newly-formed committee would inspect technical standard, construction licenses, construction and safety standard, and quality of buildings at construction sites in Preah Sihanouk province.

He added that the committee would also evaluate the qualifications of the construction companies.

"We will begin to inspect the quality of under-construction buildings in the province soon after the conclusion of the rescue operation," he told Xinhua. "Unlicensed construction projects will be halted and poor quality buildings may be required to be demolished in order to ensure people's safety."

According to Saroeun, there are hundreds of construction projects in Sihanoukville, but he did not know how many had licenses.

"We call on all building owners and developers to apply for licenses before starting their projects and they should properly comply with construction technical standard in order to ensure the quality of the buildings," he said.

Seng Loth, a spokesman for the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning, and Construction, said the seven-story building was constructed without a permit.

"It was an unlicensed project, and the provincial authorities had warned the developer twice, but they ignored the warnings," he told Xinhua. "With a strict order from Deputy Prime Minister Chea Sophara, all unlicensed construction projects in the province must be suspended."