The Apsara Authority, which oversees the Angkor Wat temple complex, has warned the owners of over 500 unauthorised construction sites to halt activity and dismantle any structures or police will clear the sites later this week.
Officials observed 523 cases of illegal construction activity within the Angkor Archaeological Park, including some sites as close as 50 metres from the ancient temples, according to a Facebook post last week. Warning letters were issued to those responsible for the activity starting on Thursday.
Long Kosal, spokesman for the Apsara Authority, confirmed yesterday that there are illegal construction sites, and claimed some of the offenders in question are local police.
“Angkor Wat is the national spirit and identity of the nation, but they are ruining it,” Kosal said.Apsara also posted more than 10 photos of the illegal construction sites, which included the identities of the owners.
Kosal said these illegal activities could also negatively affect the government’s desire to register more of the temples as Unesco World Heritage sites.
Anne Lemaistre, Unesco’s representative in Cambodia, said the organisation has been discussing the issue with Apsara.
“Unesco appreciates the energetic and firm answer from Apsara in this regards. The Cambodian authorities which are well acquainted with the World Heritage guidelines, know perfectly that illegal constructions within the Park may lead to the inscription of the site on the In-Danger List,” Lemaistre said in an email yesterday.
“The List of World Heritage in Danger is designed to inform the international community of conditions which threaten the very characteristics for which a property was inscribed on the World Heritage List, and to encourage corrective action,” the official World Heritage website explains.
Apsara notices on Thursday informed owners that a joint task force of Apsara officials and Siem Reap Provincial Police will begin dismantling the sites one week after the owners were officially warned.
Srou Sun, Banteay Srey district governor, said that he has already informed provincial authorities that there are 54 illegal construction sites across four communes in his district.
“The people constructed it without informing the authorities; they do as they want. Some families have many members, so they just separate and live on the available land,” Sun said.
Additional reporting by Andrew Nachemson