Riverside Buildings Damaged Amid Construction

Residents have been asked to temporarily vacate their homes, businesses

Businesses and apartment owners along Phnom Penh’s riverfront have been asked to temporarily vacate after construction on a building project located on Siso­wath Quay caused damage to several buildings, municipal officials said yesterday. 

According to a temporary eviction request issued by Daun Penh district, soil removed by “Vattanac Company” from the area in preparation for construction has caused damage to nearly an entire block of buildings along the riverside between streets 178 and 184.

“Vattanac Company had dug and removed soil in preparation to build concrete walls for their building, which led it to collapse, sink and collapse the citizen’s houses of 11 families,” read the notice issued Friday and signed by Daun Penh district governor Sok Sambath.

“Daun Penh district would like the citizens of the 11 families…to move temporarily in order to avoid more collapsing, sinking and cracking that can cause damage,” the notice added.

Mr Sambath said yesterday that the city had asked residents to leave the buildings for their own safety.

He also said that Vattanac had begun digging the foundation for the project without the necessary permits from the city and should halt construction immediately.

“I found out that the construction did not make a legal request for building,” he said. “Their construction does not have any legal authority.”

Chan Kok Choy, president of Vattanac Bank, said he was un­aware of the situation and re­ferred questions to Vattanac Properties, which could not be reached.

Damage to the buildings spans from the southwestern corner of Street 184 to The Mansion be­hind the construction site on Street 178. The FCC also appears to have incurred damage, bearing visible cracks that have been freshly painted over.

Benjamin le Grand, restaurant manager of the FCC, said he was unaware of the district notice.

Tenants of the apartment complexes near the construction site said that although they have been asked to move their homes and businesses, no compensation or assistance has been offered by the government or the company.

“I live here every night with my two daughters,” said Sitha Mak, owner of Lady Penh De­signs, a boutique just north of the construction site that has re­mained open despite cracks on both the floor and walls.

“I have taken out a $20,000 loan for this business, my first, and now I have to stay in the building because I cannot afford yet to move out.”

Tuy Chantha, owner of the now-shuttered German restaurant Edelweiss on the same block, said that the building she rents first started to show signs of damage a month ago. Now, she said, she can’t even move the furniture out of the restaurant because the building has caved onto the metal shutters, leaving open only a crack to re­move possessions.

“My [landlord] said that if I try and cut the gate open that it might all collapse,” she said. “I don’t know what to do and we already filed a complaint. I lost so much now.”

An owner of one of the affected buildings on that block, who asked to be identified only as “Pamha” due to the sensitivity of the issue, said that he lodged a complaint with the company a month ago, and that they appeared days later to survey the damage, but have since fallen out of touch.

“[Today] we will have meeting with the district and other owners, so now we don’t have a plan yet.”

Both shop owners claim that construction of the building is still ongoing.

Mr Sambath said that the residents and owners would eventually be compensated for their loss, but that they still needed to negotiate with Vattanac.

“I have asked the company and people to make a meeting to discuss about the compensation,” he said, adding that he had a working group in place to as­sess the damage and speak with the company.

“We cannot extend it. The meeting will be conducted this week.”

Matt Rendell, a partner with Sciaroni & Associates, said yesterday that the owners of the affected buildings had a right to seek compensation from those who caused the damage.

As for the tenants, “their right of actions is against the owners of the building. If they are asked to leave prior to the end of their lease, that’s a breach of contract, and if the condition of the space has changed, that too is a breach of contract.”

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