A SAM Rainsy Party lawmaker has asked Deputy Prime Minister Sok An to intervene on behalf of more than 1,000 Siem Reap families banned from building various structures on land controlled by the Apsara Authority.
In a letter dated July 23, SRP lawmaker Ke Sovannroth said that the Apsara Authority was unfairly preventing 1,255 families in six villages in Angkor Thom district’s Leang Dai commune from building market stalls, a kindergarten and other facilities.
“Please Excellency Deputy Prime Minister help to intervene and resolve the requests of these 1,255 families so that they can live more easily,” the letter said.
Sok An is chairman of the authority.
Tan Thea, a resident of Leang Dai village, said he had operated a market stall for two years until it was demolished earlier this year by employees of the authority.
“It has been very difficult to earn a living since then,” he said.
But Chrun Sophal, director of the communications department at the authority, defended the ban, contending that the villagers’ request to build market stalls, a school, pigpens and chicken cages could jeopardise the World Heritage status of the Angkor Wat complex.
“If we allow those people to rebuild, the number of people building things would increase more and more. If that happened, UNESCO would withdraw us from the World Heritage list,” he said.
“If they really want to make pigpens and chicken cages, we will allow them to do it, but they must come to discuss it with the Apsara Authority beforehand."
However, Muth Mam, deputy chief of Leang Dai village, said residents of his village were far enough away that they should not be forced to seek approval from the Apsara Authority to build animal pens.
“Our village is about 3 kilometres away from Angkor Wat, so it does not affect the temple complex,” he said.
Rights groups and opposition parties have previously rallied in support of villagers, who they say are suffering under restrictive regulations laid out by the Apsara Authority.
A 2002 census estimated that more than 100,000 residents lived in the protected zones that encompass the Angkor Wat complex.