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Apsara fires back at villager accusations

Apsara fires back at villager accusations

Describing complainants as opportunists, the Apsara Authority on Sunday rejected allegations that it has not complied with a sub-decree ordering it to return 220 hectares of land to local villagers in Siem Reap province.

The authority, which manages the Angkor temple complex, is in the planning stages of developing more than 1,000 hectares of land for tourism. In April, Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered it to reduce the size of the development so that 727 families in Ampil and Slakram communes can remain where they now live.

Apsara released a statement on Sunday refuting claims it had not properly implemented the sub-decree. “Saying that Apsara Authority has not complied with the government’s sub-decree is a completely false allegation, which has been made by opportunists,” the statement reads.

But local resident Yin Sokuntheary said yesterday that Apsara Authority has not returned at least seven plots of land. The authority requires villagers living on the disputed land to show ownership documentation.

“They accuse me of illegally occupying the land,” Sokuntheary said yesterday. “I have documentation and ask the national leaders to re-examine the case.”

Rights group Adhoc, which routinely sides with villagers in land disputes involving the government, yesterday offered something less than full-throated support for the villagers’ claims.

Staffer Suos Narin said that those complaining had, in fact, moved onto the land recently, as opposed to the majority, who have lived there for years.

“The people, local authorities and Apsara should seek peaceful solutions, rather than hurling accusations,” Narin said.

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