Police Seize Equipment at Sisowath Quay Site

Daun Penh district enforces ban on Vattanac construction project

Police and military police yesterday confiscated equipment from a Vattanac Properties construction site after the firm ignored a Daun Penh district order to cease work at the Sisowath Quay location that has damaged adjacent historic buildings.

Vattanac Properties started work at the site in mid-April, but the building project has resulted in major structural damage to a block of French colonial-era buildings that is home to several businesses.

Construction on the project came to a stop just before midday yesterday as district po­lice and military police loaded a truck with power tools, scaffolding and support beams from the site. The authorities also ordered workers to leave the site.

“We are here to stop construction and confiscate equipment,” Daun Penh deputy district governor Sok Penhvuth told the workers upon entering the site with a small entourage of district officials, police and military police. “Let’s stop construction and get these workers out. What would you do if the wall fell onto the workers?”

Just over a month ago, residents and business owners located on the block between streets 178 and 184, just north of the site, filed complaints with the district claiming that a large hole dug alongside the foundation of their properties was causing damage.

Daun Penh district responded on Friday by requesting those occupying 11 units in the most heavily damaged section of the building to vacate, warning that the building was collapsing. Daun Penh district then ordered Vattanac to suspend all construction work on Monday. Vattanac ignored those orders, continuing construction until police and district officials arrived at the scene yesterday.

“The supervisors told me to do so [continue working], and we follow them,” said Sovann Rithy, the site manager working for Vattanac, when asked why he was working against the district order.

He added that a crew of 23 workers have been digging along the foundations of the colonial-era building since mid April in preparation for building a bank.

Vattanac Properties Co Ltd forms part of a family-owned group of enterprises, which includes Vattanac Bank, Progress Import and Export Co Ltd, the local partner of Cambodia Brewery Ltd.

Mr Rithy claimed that he was instructed by Vattanac’s engineers to dig a hole near to the colonial building in order to install a wall that would prevent the adjacent buildings from falling over.

“It’s more than four meters deep,” he said, pointing to the deepest part of the hole inside his work site.

Mr Rithy warned that if construction on the wall does not continue soon, the neighboring colonial-era buildings could sustain further damage.

“If they hadn’t stopped us, we would keep building the concrete up to the cracks so it would stop cracking,” he said.

Property owners have expressed concern that the damage to their property could be irreparable.

Daun Penh officials yesterday defended their reasoning for not having stopped construction earlier.

Mr Penhvuth, the deputy district governor, said that when businesses and residents on the Sisowath Quay block started to complain, Vattanac Properties had assured district authorities that it would fairly compensate all those affected.

Asked why he did not halt the construction earlier Mr Penhvuth said: “At the time, [Vattanac Properties] agreed that they would compensate people and fill out all the legal documents, but they did not do it and kept building.”

“They took the opportunity to secretly build without letting us know,” Mr Penhvuth said.

He added that district and commune officials who wanted to inspect the situation were locked out of the Vattanac construction site.

The district will now form a working group to assess the damage, he said. (Additional reporting by Hul Reaksmey)


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