Stadium Construction at a Crawl, Already One Year Behind

Carpenter Sok Ang, 23, brushed sawdust from the table saw set up under the stands of Olympic Stadium and decided to take a break for some noodle soup.

Why not? It’s not like he’s getting paid.

“I’ve been working here for about four months, and they owe me for at least a month,” he said. Sok Ang said about 100 workers have jobs, and there is work they could be doing—but they don’t know when or if they will get paid.

Criticism is mounting over the slow pace of the Yuan Ta Group’s $40 million renovation and construction project at Phnom Penh’s premier sports venue. Yuan Ta officials could not be reached  for comment.

Bou Chhum Serey, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Youth, Education and Sport, insisted that the $3.6 million job of renovating the stadium is proceeding well.

He said ministry officials grilled Yuan Ta last week on what was taking so long, and that Yuan Ta said the stadium renovation will be completed by the end of 2002.

That would be more than a year later than the contract demands.

When it was signed in May 2000, the developer outlined plans for a massive project, to include new hotels, shopping centers, office buildings and parking garages as well as a completely renovated sports complex.

The contract states that the stadium would be renovated first, and work would be completed within a year. But May 2001 came and went with little sign of prog­ress.

Since then, it looks like nothing has changed. A tour of the site revealed some patching and skim-coating of cement surfaces, while floor tiles have been torn up in a few areas.

Workers interviewed said they are owed money. They are ho­ping that Yuan Ta’s latest pro­mise—of an infusion of cash at the end of the month—turns out to be true.

Sok Phan, 62, shuffled a deck of playing cards as he sat on a bench on a first-floor walkway.

He and his co-workers have finished stripping the old tiles off the floor, and are waiting for new ones to be delivered, so they can lay a new floor.

“The tiles haven’t arrived because they haven’t paid the manufacturer,” he said. “If we had had the money, this job would have been done by now.”

A supervisor for one of three Cambodian subcontractors hired  to repaint the stadium and refinish the floors says the job is supposed to cost $1.4 million, but charged the subcontractors have received only a fraction of what they are owed.

The man, who asked not to be identified, said he does not understand why the government ever entered into a contract with Yuan Ta.

“The government could afford to pay for this work,” he said. “I don’t understand this contract.”

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