Newly appointed Australian ambassador Pablo Chiho Kang yesterday told National Assembly President Heng Samrin his government is now working with experts to assist Cambodia in promoting construction safety standards.
Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne in December announced the appointment of Mr Kang as Australia’s next Ambassador to Cambodia, replacing Angela Corcoran.
Speaking to reporters, Mr Samrin’s cabinet chief Keo Piseth quoted Mr Kang as saying he was saddened by the loss of lives during recent building collapses in the Kingdom and also extended his condolences to their families.
“Ambassador Kang told President Samrin that the Australian government is now arranging for experts to cooperate with the Institute of Technology of Cambodia to improve construction safety standards,” Mr Piseth said.
He said Mr Samrin voiced appreciation for the Australian government’s support, pointing out both countries have been committed to supporting each other since diplomatic ties were established over 60 years ago.
A total of 36 people, including children were killed and 23 were injured after the collapse of the seven-storey building in Kep city on January 3. It is the third in Cambodia in less than seven months.
In June, the collapse of a Chinese-owned building in Sihanoukville killed 28 and injured 26 workers.
In December, three people were killed and more than a dozen sustained critical injuries in a temple building collapse in Siem Reap province’s Siem Reap city.
Khun Tharo, a programme coordinator of labour rights group Central, yesterday hailed the Australian government’s support and urged for the participation of relevant stakeholders, particularly those in the private construction sector.
“Australia is known for its high quality building construction and safety standards. This is important support for Cambodia,” he said. “However, I believe the contribution of related parties within the country is also important.”
Mr Tharo urged the government to conduct regular inspections on all buildings under construction to ensure that the projects comply with both the law and safety standards.
According to an overview of Australia’s aid programme on its Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website, the country is a leading bilateral grant donor to Cambodia.
In 2018-19, Australia’s estimated official development assistance was at $79.7 million. This included an estimated $56.1 million in bilateral funding delivered in Cambodia through DFAT.
The department said since 2015, Australia’s aid investments have been prioritising three key objectives – improving access to infrastructure, increasing agricultural productivity, and better health and education.
Mr Piseth said during the meeting Mr Samrin called on the Australian government to increase the number of scholarships for Cambodian students and human resources required to boost development in the Kingdom.
“Mr Samrin also made several requests to the Australian ambassador which included investment and tourism cooperation,” he said.
Mr Piseth noted Mr Kang said many Australian investors are eyeing opportunities in Cambodia’s agriculture and infrastructure development.