China Considers New Buildings for Senate

A group of Chinese engineers is scheduled to arrive Friday to assess the condition of several fairly recent—yet reportedly crumbling—Chinese-built structures in the Senate compound, and to discuss possible new construction, Senate officials said.

The assessment is expected to take at least a month. The six-person delegation will then return to Beijing, where the Chinese government will consider what it is willing to spend on Cambodia’s notoriously inactive legislative body.

Senators began grousing months ago about major fissures in China’s 2001 constructions—three Senate office buildings and a library. China spent $4 million on that round and brought in foreign technicians to oversee the job.

The Senate solicited the Chi­nese government for improvements in 2003, and China’s Dep­uty Prime Minister Wu Yi agreed in February to send a delegation to study the request, Um Sarith, the Senate’s secretary-general, said Tuesday. “I am very happy, because the government doesn’t have funds to construct or renovate the buildings,” he said.

The building where the Senate gathers, on the rare occasion it does, was built about 50 years ago and should be demolished and replaced, Um Sarith said. But the Chinese are only considering ren­ovations for standing buildings, he said.

As for new construction, the Chinese are considering up to seven buildings for the Senate, some with two stories, to be used as administrative offices and sundry storage areas, Um Sarith said.

The condition of the 2001 buildings has drawn criticism from some current occupants. Sam Rainsy Party Senator Kong Korm said Tuesday he is afraid his office building may topple.

“When there is rain, I never dare stay in my room. The building was just constructed, but it is already fragile,” he said. “The Senate should think about the senators’ safety.”

Um Sarith, a CPP official, dismissed such gripes as opposition party politicking.

“Only those opposition senators always claim they are afraid to stay in their office, because they want to profit politically,” he said.

He said that the buildings were structurally sound and that only some tiles were cracking.

But a staff member of the Senate secretariat said on condition of anonymity that the builders hadn’t considered how soft the earth beneath the Senate compound is.

“I am very concerned about my safety. I have no choice because I work there. I don’t know when it will collapse because I am not an engineer,” he said.

Sam Rainsy Party Senator Thach Setha said Tuesday that he wanted more than just structural renovations at the Senate. He said the office equipment was no good either.

Multiple calls to numerous CPP senators went unanswered.


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