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Encroachment offenders in Siem Reap protected area set to face legal action

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
An illegally built structure within the protected area of the Trapaing Hephka irrigation dyke was removed last week. APSARA NATIONAL AUTHORITY

Encroachment offenders in Siem Reap protected area set to face legal action

Apsara National Authority spokesman Long Kosal told The Post on Monday that residents who constructed the now demolished illegal structures in a protected area in Siem Reap province will face legal action.

Kosal’s statement comes after the illegally built structures in two locations within the protected area of the Trapaing Hephka irrigation dyke were removed last week.

He said the Apsara National Authority was still planning on bringing the cases to court despite the removal of the structures.

“We demolished the illegal structures and will file a complaint against the two owners,” Kosal said, without specifying a date for such action.

In early October, Apsara National Authority’s General Department director-general Hang Pov sent a series of letters to Chhit Sodaing, Yun Sokhorn and Pum Sokhunthea asking them to demolish the illegally built constructions.

The Apsara National Authority also warned of administrative measures including building a case file to be referred to court if they failed to cooperate.

In its Facebook post, the Apsara National Authority announced that the constructions in two locations had encroached on the (Kok Kou) hillock, Trapaing Hephka archaeological site and Trapaing Hephka dam built in the ninth century in Chreav commune’s Bos Kralanh village in Siem Reap town.

The constructions were removed by a joint force comprising the Apsara National Authority, Siem Reap town Apsara National Authority, Chreav commune hall, the police and military police.

The first illegal construction which was demolished belonged to Sokhorn.

The construction is a perimeter of concrete that encroached on Trapaing Hephka dam. It is 2.5m high, 87m long and 38m wide and had a tile-roofed kiosk of approximately 4sqm and a toilet within its boundaries.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
An illegally built structure within the protected area of the Trapaing Hephka irrigation dyke was removed last week. APSARA NATIONAL AUTHORITY

The second construction belonged to Pum Sokhunthea. A fence construction, it measured 2.5m in height and 24sqm in area and had encroached on the ancient Kok Kou hillock which is located in the protected area.

The Apsara National Authority posted on its Facebook page that before removing the constructions, it had issued a letter urging the owners to voluntarily demolish the constructions on October 15.

But when the constructions had not been demolished after the deadline, the Apsara National Authority invited the owners to meet twice for talks. The authority then urged them to voluntarily demolish the constructions on their own on October 22 and 24 this year.

Apsara National Authority said during the discussion, Sokhorn had admitted his mistake for illegally building the construction on the dyke. He had allowed a joint working group to demolish it without protest, but he didn’t agree to demolish it on his own.

Last Friday, after a joint working group demolished Sokhorn’s construction, he marked his thumbprint on a paper to allow the demolishment. Meanwhile, Sokhunthea had strongly refused any discussion with the joint working group.

Sokhorn who is the construction owner told The Post that he was pressured to put his thumbprint on paper to allow the authority to carry out the demolishment.

“We are the fence owners, so we don’t want them to demolish [our construction], but we have no choice. There is a pressure on us, so we have to put our thumbprint on the paper,” he said.

Trapaing Hephka is one of many areas designated as an ancient heritage site in the province.

The Apsara National Authority is tasked to ensure the protection and conservation of Cambodia’s national heritage areas. It regularly cracks down on all unauthorised construction, digging and changes to the landscape of these protected areas.

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