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Religious sites allegedly sold and cleared by Kandal trader

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A historic religious hillock in Barong commune, Lvea Em district, Kandal province which was cleared recently. FACEBOOK

Religious sites allegedly sold and cleared by Kandal trader

On January 25, Lvea Em district authorities in Kandal province led Barong commune officials and cultural experts to inspect the site of a historic religious hillock in Barong village, after receiving reports that it was being cleared and sold.

Known as toul boran – or ancient hills – these mounds were widely viewed as communal land by villagers who kept them for common use whether for safety during flooding or to rest cattle. According to the villagers, ceremonies observing ancient beliefs were still held there and the land has never been cleared.

Di Kheng, a resident of Barong village, said on January 25 that this “holy” place has existed since pre-Angkorian times. He alleged that this past weekend, it was being cleared by machinery, prompting the villagers to report to the authorities.

“That’s all state land and no one has the right to take it. When the government allocated land titles, they gave away only the fields. It is communal land, used by all of the villagers,” he said.

Kheng said there were several of these hillocks in Barong commune, used by different villages. The mound in his village was used by about 400 families, he noted.

He claimed that a villager had sold the land to a businessman with acknowledgement from local authorities.

“Near to the top of the largest toul boran was the place being cleared. That place is reserved for use by all of us.”

Barong commune chief Nuon Chak said on January 25 that the clearing was being done by villagers on their own private land and did not affect the ancient site.

He said there was land for sale about 150m from the hillock, but that nobody was selling public land.

He added that it was originally known as a safety hill, because it remained dry even if the village was flooded.

“They are clearing beside the hill . . . It was a place that had been privately owned for 20 or 30 years. The owners of the land have kept buffalo and straw here for at least that long,” he said.

Lvea Em district governor Kan Sokkay said on January 25 that after receiving this information, he sent a team to inspect the location. According to the report from the working group, the clearing did not affect the ancient hill, whose location was recorded by the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts.

“There was no clearing taking place on the ancient hill. My team reported that the bulldozer was far from the toul boran. However they did determine that the work was being done without permits, so it has been suspended until they apply for the correct paperwork,” he said.

According to provincial culture department director Muong Sarim, there are more than 500 such mounds in Kandal province. Some of the hillocks contain tombs and some became foundations for later temples, she said.

She said the preservation of ancient sites had invaluable historical importance, as scientists could study them and learn about the lives of previous generations.

“That hill is of significant importance. Archaeologists want to protect it for future research work. It must be preserved, and can never be destroyed,” Sarim said.


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