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Staircase completed at Preah Vihear temple

THE construction of a 1,630-metre wooden staircase to the summit of Preah Vihear Temple has been completed, the latest development in the effort to draw tourists to the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Preah Vihear National Authority began the project last year, building the wooden steps alongside the ancient stone stairs at the cliffside temple. Authorities say the new stairs will allow visitors to explore the complex more easily.

“I hope the stairs will help attract more tourists to visit the temple, because we have more ways of accessing it now,” said Om Phirom, chief of the PVNA’s heritage police.

In the first half of this year, nearly 50,000 tourists visited the temple complex, compared with fewer than 6,000 for the same time period in 2009. Local officials said better infrastructure and reduced tensions along the border with Thailand has contributed to the significantly higher turnout.

As the development has expanded, however, government officials and preservation workers have come into conflict with local residents.

Villagers in Preah Vihear province’s Choam Ksan district were told to leave their homes by the end of last month to make way for the construction of UNESCO and PVNA offices.

More than 250 families in the district’s Svay Chrum village have been offered 2 million riels (US$475) and plots of land in the Thamacheat Samdech Techo Village, which has already taken in hundreds of relocated families in the area, though many say this compensation is insufficient.

“The villagers were asked to leave by the end of last month, but they haven’t moved from their houses or settled in the new area,” Mol Mab, chief of Kantuot commune said yesterday.

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