The Apsara National Authority has delayed planting trees in front of the Angkor Wat temple after nearly 100 food vendors protested.
Tasked with managing the Angkor Archaeological Park, Apsara said in an announcement last week that the tree planting was meant to beautify the temple complex and make its surrounding environment greener.
The body said it would replace the Pithecellobium dulce and some other tree species in the compound’s northwest with luxury trees.
Apsara said before the protest, its officials had posted a notice and informed the vendors that they would close the area for two days to dig pits. But before they could plant the trees, the vendors protested and filled the pits with soil, Apsara spokesman Long Kosal said.
Kosal said the body had not set a certain date to resume its activities to avoid clashing with the vendors.
He said Apsara would find every possible means to complete the work without harming their interests.
“They only care for their benefit and not about our development. We know that at some places where they sell food, there are puddles and potholes left by passing vehicles. That spoils the park’s image. What they have done is not a contribution to development but harm to common interests,” he stressed.
Apsara said beautification works within the 401sq km park began early this month, with thousands of luxury trees including the Rauwenhoffia siamensis and other tree species that represent a national identity slated to be planted from Siem Reap’s international airport to Angkor Wat and certain parts of the area.
Kosal said there had been no obstruction until the works began in front of Angkor Wat in the northwest, on the compound’s old parking lot. He said the body had already built a new one nearby.
A vendor who asked to be identified only as Sokha and who owns a food stall of the same name near the temple said vendors would oppose the project if no compensation was provided.
She said the vendors were concerned that the tree planting would close the driveway fronting their stalls and in turn hurt their businesses. She said most vendors rely on daily income from their business to support their families.
“Some vendors went to fill the pits with soil because they think the tree planting would affect their sales. They don’t want to obstruct [Apsara] from planting the trees there, but they want the body to find a better location for them to resume their business first,” she said.
Another food vendor said they would not hinder the process if Apsara clearly explained the project to them.
“Before planting the trees, they should provide the vendors with an alternative. They should offer a solution for them until they can find a new location. They informed us only one day before that they would close the area for two days,” she said.
Kosal said the body would seek a compromise before resorting to legal means.
“In this case, the Apsara National Authority will consider all options that are acceptable to all parties. We hope we can reach a compromise because we have many options on the table before turning to the judicial system,” he said.