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Last warning for Angkor park holdouts

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Residents of Run Ta Ek eco-village receive an equity card from Banteay Srei district authorities in Siem Reap province on September 30. SIEM REAP INFORMATION DEPARTMENT

Last warning for Angkor park holdouts

Prime Minister Hun Sen issued a warning to people who are living in the Angkor Archaeological Park and refuse to relocate their houses. He told them that when measures are taken to clear the area are over, they will not receive any form of compensation, as the government will not allow the Angkor temples to be de-listed by UNESCO.

Speaking at the October 3 graduation ceremony for Vanda Institute students, he suggested that some people may be expecting that they will receive more compensation – or a larger allocation of new land – if they delay accepting the government’s offer. He made it clear that this would not be forthcoming, as the government is under pressure from UNESCO to protect the Angkor Archaeological Park.

“I am letting them know that this is the last time they will be asked to leave politely. When the time comes, we will not give them a single riel and will remove them from the area. Let me send this message to them,” he said.

He said that they must not attempt to haggle for greater compensation, and warned them about being deceived by any activists or political party who tried to assure them that they should stay.

“I have met personally with nearly 4,000 families who understand that they must leave the area for the good of the Kingdom’s cultural heritage, and they are grateful for the new development in Run Ta Ek that we are preparing for them,” he added.

The Prime Minister is committed to preserving the Angkor Heritage Site, which Cambodia registered with UNESCO in 1992. He would not allow Angkor Wat to be removed from the World Heritage List, and said that if families refused to relocate, the temple could be de-listed.

Rights group Adhoc spokesman Soeng Sen Karuna said the Prime Minister should instruct the authorities to coordinate and negotiate a common solution for those who refused to leave the Angkor area, to avoid employing measures that could lead to a social tragedy in the future.

“I understand that people want an appropriate solution and will not take action that will hurt them. The authorities must solve this by peaceful means. Some of the families have been living there for years, and the authorities know that,” he said.

Am Sam Ath, deputy director of monitoring at rights group LICADHO, also called on the government to find a peaceful solution.

“I believe that this matter can be solved without conflict. Some of these families have lived in their homes for many years, built businesses, and have connections with the land that they do not want to sever. Negotiations should be held to find peaceful common solutions,” he said.

The Apsara National Authority said that as of mid-September, 594 families had left the Angkor park voluntarily, and been relocated to the Run Ta Ek eco-village in Siem Reap province’s Banteay Srei district. Each of them was granted a plot measuring 20 by 30m and would receive other benefits. The government has committed to developing the area into a new town.

Hun Sen said that he is preparing to instruct Minister of Economy and Finance Aun Pornmoniroth to look for ways to allocate more ID Poor cards to those families who were hardest hit by the pandemic and rising costs of living.

“If it is necessary, we are prepared to issue 20,000 or even 50,000 more cards to relieve the struggles of the poorest members of society. We are currently spending nearly $50 million each month on assisting them, but we are prepared to commit more funds to alleviate their suffering,” he said.

“Who dared suggest that the Cambodian government had no money?” he asked.

Minister of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction Chea Sophara announced stringent measures against all illegal structures within the Angkor Archaeological Park and ordered them dismantled as soon as possible.

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