PRIME Minister Hun Sen has given Preah Vihear provincial authorities until the end of the week to construct a new market to replace the one near Preah Vihear temple that was destroyed during a clash between Cambodian and Thai soldiers in early April, despite the fact that Thailand has yet to respond to Cambodian demands for compensation.
Hang Soth, general director of the Preah Vihear National Authority (PVNA), said Hun Sen issued the order from France, where he is on a state visit with Foreign Affairs Minister Hor Namhong.
Though he described the one-week deadline as unrealistic, Hang Soth said work on the market had already begun Tuesday afternoon.
"I have sent my officials to the market site this morning to prepare for the construction," he said.
"The new market will be a market for tourists."
During an exchange of gunfire between Cambodian and Thai soldiers on April 3, Thai rocket fire destroyed all 264 stands, leaving roughly 319 families who lived and worked at the market homeless, according to accounts from Cambodian military officials.
The Cambodian government in May demanded US$2.1 million from the Thai government to pay for the damages.
Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said during a visit to Phnom Penh in late May that Thai authorities would investigate the cause of the damage to the temple before responding to the request.
Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Tuesday that the government had decided to go ahead with the building of a new market despite having received no response from Thailand regarding compensation.
Officials from the Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh and the Thai Foreign Ministry in Bangkok could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Hang Soth said the PVNA would be responsible for settling on a location for the new market, though he said vendors would need to pay for the construction of individual market stalls themselves.
He said that vendors who were displaced would "be given priority" for stalls.
"We planned to rebuild about 319 shops, but after studying the site now we think we will build about 150 shops," he said, adding that individual stalls would cost between $3,000 and $7,000, depending on size.
Sar Thavy, a deputy governor of Preah Vihear province, said Tuesday that the location of the new market had been selected and that construction materials had already been taken to the site.
"It's been raining for three days, so it's been difficult to transport the materials up the mountain," he said.
"But they have to obey the premier's order."
Also Tuesday, an RCAF official said that a meeting scheduled for Monday between Thai and Cambodian military officials had been cancelled because the Thai officials had been unable to secure approval from government officials in Bangkok.
Chea Morn, commander of RCAF Military Region 4, said that the meeting had been proposed to reduce tension along the border.