Vendors at the Banteay Srey temple in Siem Reap province have accused Apsara Authority officials of threatening and beating them, according to a letter sent to Deputy Prime Minister Sok An last week by the opposition Sam Rainsy Party.
The letter urged Sok An, who is also chairman of Apsara Authority, to take action against officials alleged to have physically abused vendors, including small children.
Five SRP lawmakers wrote the letter, after claiming to have received complaints from vendors at the temple.
“Plenty of people and children have raised concerns about difficulties caused by Apsara Authority officials based in Banteay Srey temple,” the letter read.
“[They] have confirmed that they were beaten, threatened, had their things confiscated and also forced to take off their clothes when they tried to sell small things at the temple.”
Ke Sovanroth, one of the SRP lawmakers who wrote the letter, said she had received complaints from nearly 100 vendors when she visited the temple.
Chhorn Om, a 21-year-old silk vendor, said she used to sell scarves in front of the temple, but was moved by Apsara officials to a more remote location.
“Nowadays, when I sell those souvenirs, I am afraid because if I’m caught by Apsara staff I will be treated like a thief,” she said.
Bun Narith, director general of Apsara Authority, dismissed allegations of physical abuse, but said that his officials have instructed vendors on how to behave in front of tourists.
“We do not want mobile vendors walking around, pulling guests’ hands and disturbing them,” he said.
“The guests will not be happy and it makes them look down on our country.”
Bun Narith said vending stalls had been set up throughout the temple complex to curb the number of vendors that follow and pester tourists.
Lin Neng Khonni, a spokesperson for the temple’s vendors, said she filed complaints to both the Cambodian People’s Party and Sam Rainsy Party, but had only received visits from the latter.