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Families clear-cut jungle near popular Beng Melea temple

090804_04
The moss-covered ruins of the Beng Melea temple complex sit in a pile. The temple is a popular tourist site.

Apsara Authority warns community against logging, but residents say they need more farmland to feed their families and earn a living.

ABOUT 20 families have cleared the jungle in the conservation area next to Beng Mealea, an Angkorian-era temple complex about 50 kilometres from Angkor Wat that has become a popular tourist site, officials told the Post.

"They've clear-cut about 6 hectares of forest to expand their farmland," said Sam Sau, the deputy governor of Svay Leu district in Siem Reap province.

The Apsara Authority, the body in charge of preserving the temple complex, said they have warned the families that if they log any more of the protected forest, they would be arrested.

"At the moment, we have just educated them," said Soeung Kong, the deputy director general of the Apsara Authority. "But if they do not stop their illegal cutting of forest land ... we will file a complaint."

According to a Royal decree from 2000, the forest is under the control of the Apsara Authority.

But residents from the Beng Mealea commune say they need to cut the forest to have farmland to feed their families, as the community has outgrown their meagre farms.

"They have a shortage of land that they can use for agriculture," said Hun Hatt, chief of Beng Mealea commune, adding that the villagers wanted to plant bananas and pineapples.

Resident Vann Mach, 52, said, "I need the farmland to share with my children after they are married."

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