NATIONAL Assembly President Heng Samrin has sent a letter to Deputy Prime Minister Sok An asking him to intervene on behalf of more than 1,200 Siem Reap families who have been restricted from building on land controlled by the Apsara Authority.
The letter, dated Wednesday, said that 1,255 families from six villages in Angkor Thom district’s Leang Dai commune were facing hardship because they had been prevented from building homes, market stalls, animal pens and schools on land under the jurisdiction of the Apsara Authority, the government body that manages the Angkor Wat temple compex and other conservation projects in the area. Sok An serves as head of the authority.
Heng Samrin’s request for intervention follows a similar plea made earlier this week by Ke Sovannroth, a Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker.
Ke Sovannroth said yesterday that she had received no reply to her letter. She called on the Apsara Authority yesterday to “publicly outline the location of the conservation areas, because up until now the villagers do not know if they are living in a prohibited area”.
Luch Cham, 51, of Leang Dai commune, said it was unfair that villagers had to secure permission from the authority before building on the land.
“We do not have the right to make any decisions about our lives here,” she said.
Chhor Thanath, an official at the authority, said he and his colleagues had not seen Heng Samrin’s letter, but that the moratorium on building projects would remain in place.
“The Apsara Authority cannot allow the villagers to just build anything they want because we have to comply with UNESCO standards, which require the area to be conserved,” he said. “We do not want them to form a slum in a conservation area.”
Chrun Sophal, director of the Apsara Authority’s communications department, said some of the affected residents could be eligible to relocate to a 1,012-hectare social land concession in Banteay Srey district, which could accommodate about 850 families.