Cambodia: Second major building collapse in six months kills 36

07 January 2020 05:12


The collapse of a seven-storey building in the small coastal town of Kep in Southern Cambodia on 3 January has killed 36 workers, including six children and a pregnant woman. The tragic incident has come just over six months after the collapse of a building in Sihanoukville that killed 28 people.

“We want to express our sincere condolences to the families of those who perished in this tragic accident which can have been avoidable had institutional safety measures been put in place,” said BWI General Secretary Ambet Yuson.

“We strongly call on the Government of Cambodia to work closely with the Building and Wood Workers’ Trade Union Federation of Cambodia to hold those responsible accountable and to increase and strengthen safety and health inspections to prevent further accidents across the country.”

Organisers from the BWTUC immediately undertook a mission to the town, denouncing lax enforcement of building standards and the scant regard shown for workers lives on this construction site and many others.

“This horrific accident underscores the need for stronger building standards and better law enforcement. The building’s owners had only received approval to build five floors, however seven were under construction. These flagrant violations are part of a pattern of violation that is killing workers every year in Cambodia,” said BWTUC Vice President Chhlonh Sou.

The BWTUC has called upon the Government to facilitate assistance to the 23 surviving victims to the National Social Security Fund and to take serious action against both the construction company and the building’s owner. In addition, they requested the Government to undertake inspections of all construction projects across the country.

Cambodia is in the midst of a building boom; however, the lack of a Building Code means that there are no real standards. Following the June 2019 collapse, the Government established an Inspection Committee in Preah Sihanouk Province that looked at 570 buildings, ordering 23 to be demolished and 166 to be rehabilitated, while 381 buildings were found to have lacked the necessary documentation.

In November 2019 at the BWI Asia-Pacific Regional Conference, the BWTUC were proponents of a resolution calling for the establishment of a “Building Collapse Watch” organisation that collected information on building collapses in key countries and lobbied for better construction and safety standards.