With No Expert Advice, Workers Repair Damaged Building

Owner of damaged apartment says engineers have yet to be called in to assess repairs

The company behind a real estate project on Phnom Penh’s Sisowath Quay that has damaged the structure of a block of colonial-era building is attempting to re­pair the properties itself, despite having agreed to consult a structural engineer first, a property own­er said yesterday. 

Yesterday morning, laborers could be seen working both in­side the damaged 1920s-era building and on adjacent land where the Sam Ang Vatta­nac Com­pany has planned a five-sto­ry building complete with un­der­ground parking.

Workers could be seen offloading iron rods and scaffolding onto the building site, located between streets 178 and 184.

Sing Sochara, deputy of the mu­­­nicipal land management de­partment, said he was unaware the company had begun repairing the colonial-era building, but re­iterated that Vattanac had no per­mission to build on the site.

“Giving permission to construct is in the hands of Daun Penh au­thorities,” he said. “There has been no permission from ex­perts at the land management department.”

Last Thursday, Daun Penh district officials drew up an agreement signed by local authorities, the building site owner and the Sisowath Quay property owners agreeing that each party would deploy a structural engineer to evaluate whether or not the damaged buildings can be repaired or need to be torn down and rebuilt.

But with work ongoing yesterday without the expert advice of the engineers, one property own­er said he was concerned the re­pairs could lead to the building’s collapse.

Ministry, municipal and district authorities have all said the company behind the development goes by the name of Vattanac, but officials from Vattanac Properties, part of a family-owned group of businesses here, have denied any involvement in the project.

According to architectural plans, the Sam Ang Vattanac Company is behind the development. Prak Sideth, a representative for Vatta­nac Properties who has acted on behalf of the developer of the riverfront site, could not be reached yesterday for com­ment on the repair work.

Olivier de Bernon, director of studies at Ecole Francaise d’Ex­treme-Orient and owner of a second-floor apartment inside the damaged building, has been working over the past few weeks to en­sure that the building is repaired in a professional and safe fashion.

“Things are happening without proper consultation,” Mr de Ber­non complained yesterday during a visit to the site of the repair work.

“The property owners who are losing rent are very impatient that things progress. But the property owners who aren’t losing rent like me would like things to pro­gress with more regulation and order,” he said.

“Once again, it seems to me to be extremely amateur, and I am surprised that anyone is sending workers into this thing that seems to me to be extremely fra­gile,” he said of the damaged building.

Kar Savuth, Mr de Bernon’s lawyer, who also provides legal services to the family of Prime Min­­ister Hun Sen, said he was pre­paring a complaint to the court about the damage.

“The authorities allowing people to renovate are very biased,” he said. “The ground floor owners agreed to the renovation. But if the owners above oppose, it should not go on,” Mr Savuth said.

A structural engineer who works at the Institut de Tech­nologie du Cambodge and visited the site yesterday said trying to repair the structure without reinforcing its foundations was pointless.

“There is a lot of displacement of the foundations, and the pillars are destroyed,” said the engineer, who declined to give his name, as he is in the midst of negotiations with Mr de Bernon to be em­ployed on behalf of the property owners.

On Friday, structural engineers representing all parties involved will meet at the site to discuss what action should be taken to re­pair the damage to the building in question.




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