More than a hundred workers who had done restoration work at the West Mebon temple in Siem Reap province said they would petition the French Embassy calling for a resumption of the project.
The call was made after the L’Ecole française d’Extrême-Orient (EFEO) centre, which oversaw the project, announced it had run out of budget and passed the project on to the Apsara Authority, a state body charged with managing the Angkor Archaeological Park.
Chhin Sophal, who had overseen the restoration site since 2012, said financial benefits offered by the Apsara Authority was deemed unacceptable by all the 126 workers.
“We rejected the offer right away. it’s unacceptable. We feel very sad that the state institution cannot offer the same benefits as a foreign organisation,” he said.
Sophal said workers’ monthly wages under EFEO’s oversight ranged from $137 to $370.
He said the workers’ appeal to various institutions had gone unanswered.
“We want a negotiation, but nobody talked with us. We have been complaining to the culture and labour ministries, Unesco and the French embassy since last month, but to no avail,” he said.
“We feel regret. When we first started the project, the temple structure at the bottom was damaged. After six years we have completed nearly 65 per cent of restoration work. I heard from the French technical and architectural team that the restoration would take another five years to finish,” he said.
Apsara Authority spokesman Long Kosal said restoration work at the temple had yet to resume.
He said Apsara could not offer the same benefits.
“I don’t know why they stopped their work before the restoration is finished. We [Apsara Authority] are not responsible for the budget. We may resume the restoration work next year.” he said.
“We care about every worker’s welfare but we cannot offer the same benefits because our [state] budget is limited,” he said.