Hundreds of people could have their homes demolished by security forces in order to preserve Angkorian heritage following a meeting between the Apsara Authority and the Siem Reap provincial government on Friday.
The officials met to discuss the establishment of a joint commission to combat “illegal construction” on land within the Angkor Archaeological Park, with 521 cases identified so far.
“The Apsara Authority, the provincial authority and police will work together to implement [this] aim to crack down on the anarchic construction in the Angkor area for prevention of any threat to the Angkor heritage,” Apsara posted to Facebook on Friday.
The group said there was no official date set for the establishment of the commission, but authorities would continue to educate locals to dismantle their own homes in order to avoid damage or conflict when security forces begin demolishing them.
Aspara spokesman Long Kosal said the authority had so far identified 521 dwellings that needed to be torn down. However, there was leniency for long-term residents.
“The older people there, they never have to be concerned over the construction, they are allowed to build new houses [to replace their old ones],” Kosal said, referring to people who had been born there or whose parents had been born there.
“But the newcomers are not allowed to build new buildings in this area – it is prohibited.”
The impending destruction concerned Mo Line, a villager in Siem Reap’s Kokchak commune and a relative newcomer to the area.
Reached yesterday, Line said he bought his plot of land four years ago and claimed commune authorities gave him permission to build a small house.
“I feel concern over the action that should be taken . . . it was not as strict [before] as now when I built it,” he said.
Deputy Prime Minister Tea Banh, speaking in Siem Reap on Tuesday, threw his support behind the dismantling of illegal constructions within the Unesco Heritage Site.
“Heritage areas must be protected because our nation is very famous for our heritage . . . We have to take action if there is any threat or harm . . . We have to solve the problem together,” Banh said, according to Apsara’s Facebook post.
Sous Narin, Adhoc’s human rights and land conflict monitor in Siem Reap, said he supported the plan to allow long-term dwellers to replace their homes but to otherwise ban new constructions.