Phnom Penh (dpa) – Two days after a building under construction collapsed in Cambodia’s Preah Sihanouk province, killing at least 28 workers, Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday announced the resignation of the province’s governor.
Yun Min, governor of the coastal province in the nation’s south-west, acknowledged his own “mismanagement in his jurisdiction which has caused pain,” the long-ruling premier said in a post on his official Facebook page.
Min confirmed his resignation on Facebook, taking “full responsibility for this incident,” expressing “deep regret” and asking “forgiveness from the victims’ families.”
Rescue workers have pulled another 26 injured from the pile of metal and concrete since the nearly completed seven-storey edifice came down in the provincial capital Sihanoukville early Saturday morning with more people feared buried under the rubble, a government statement said.
About 75 per cent of the debris has been removed from the site, according to a statement from the provincial government released Monday.
Those killed were between 16 and 48 years old.
Sihanoukville has seen a construction boom in recent years, with an influx of Chinese investment and rapid growth in the construction of hotels and casinos catering mostly for Chinese tourists.
The Chinese Embassy in Phnom Penh on Sunday said a Chinese national had invested in the building and that three Chinese nationals had been detained by Cambodian police in relation to the collapse. The embassy said it supported a “thorough investigation of the accident.”
The cause of the collapse was under investigation, officials said.
Min told reporters on Saturday that the building was being constructed illegally, the Khmer Times reported.
“That building was built without a permit, and our officials went down to prohibit the construction two times already, but the builders did not listen,” Min said.
Preap Kol, executive director of anti-corruption organization Transparency International Cambodia, on Sunday called for Min’s removal.
Kol said on Monday that while he was “pleasantly surprised” that Min had “been removed,” his resignation should not “free him from further accountability and responsibility for what has happened in Sihanoukville under his leadership.”
Min should be investigated for possible wrongdoing or negligence, Kol added.
“I want also to see [investigated] the officials that went to inspect the building twice, according to what the governor said … and failed to stop the construction until the building collapsed,” Kol said.
Khun Tharo, of labour rights organization Central, said authorities must enforce existing laws, including inspecting building sites and ensuring occupational health and safety standards.
The government should also pass regulations that ensure companies provide workers with safe accommodations so they can avoid living at construction sites, like those who were killed in Sihanoukville, Tharo said.
“If they had proper accommodation, they would not have been killed,” he said.
According to a 2017 survey from a local trade union, three-fourths of 1,010 construction workers polled at Phnom Penh worksites said they lived on-site.
There are about 223,000 construction workers nationwide, Tharo said.
On Monday, dozens of rescue workers lifted, tossed and passed pieces of debris in relay lines at the site of the collapsed building while excavators removed rubble and girders, as seen in a live video stream from Central.
Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng on Saturday vowed “to identify the cause that led to this tragedy and to hold those people in charge accountable.”
Mu Sochua, deputy president of the outlawed main opposition party, on Monday questioned the independence of a 15-person government committee set up to investigate the incident.
“The chair of the committee is from the [Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction] that should have taken action in the first place to prevent this tragedy,” Sochua said. “It’s an insult to the souls of the victims.”