Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - UNESCO push will clear villagers off of Kulen Mountain

UNESCO push will clear villagers off of Kulen Mountain

People a walk along a dirt road flanked by stalls at Siem Reap’s Kulen Mountain on Sunday where authorities plan to remove more than 300 families. Photo supplied
People a walk along a dirt road flanked by stalls at Siem Reap’s Kulen Mountain on Sunday where authorities plan to remove more than 300 families. Photo supplied

UNESCO push will clear villagers off of Kulen Mountain

Hundreds of villagers living on Siem Reap’s historic Phnom Kulen are reeling after the government announced they would be relocated as part of a scheme to secure a UNESCO World Heritage Listing for the site.

Poung Lyna, the head of the Siem Reap environment department, yesterday confirmed the news villagers received over the weekend. “About 300 families, most of which are army and newcomers’ families who live near the Preah Ang Thom area on Kulen Mountain, will be relocated to a new place soon as their presence is affecting the environment of the national park,” Lyna said.

However, he added that those who had “lived there a long time” – upwards of 20 years – would not be moved. But uncertainty shrouds the ministry’s plans, with Lyna admitting he did not know when the villagers would be moved, or to where. However, he claimed it would be near their former homes.

“They will maybe be moved to the foot of the mountain, and we might give them a piece of land larger than what they currently have,” he said, making no mention of monetary compensation. “We will move their houses, but we will keep their businesses on the mountain untouched.”

Lyna added that tourism amenities such as food stalls on the mountain would also be upgraded as part of the plan.

The impetus for the plan was a recent request, made by the Environment Ministry to the International Coordinating Committee for the Safeguarding and Development of the Historic Site of Angkor (ICC-Angkor), to develop a master plan for the management of the national park site in a bid to put it on the World Heritage List – a task that would require limiting the number of villagers, Lyna said.

Resident Chhin Vanny, 43, who has lived at the site since 2000, said the distance from his current home to the foot of the mountain was about 20 kilometres. “I will not go anywhere. I just want to live here,” Vanny said.

“We are very upset as we did not cut down the trees, we did not make any problems for the park; we just lived there with nature to sell some souvenirs to tourists.”

But one resident, 53-year-old Khev Kheng, who has lived there for a decade, said he would reluctantly relocate if it would benefit the park.

“I have lived here a long time already, so I do not want to leave. But if they really need me to move, I hope the new location will not make it difficult to live,” he said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Government denies claims former Thai PM Yingluck issued Cambodian passport

    Government officials on Thursday denied claims that a Cambodian passport was issued to former Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who reportedly used it to register a company in Hong Kong. The Hong Kong-based English language South China Morning Post (SCMP) on Wednesday reported Hong Kong

  • Diplomatic passports issued to foreigners to be annulled

    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation will move to annul diplomatic passports issued to those not born in Cambodia. Analysts say the move may be in relation to reports that former Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra used a Cambodian passport to register as

  • Hun Sen warns Irish MP of EBA ‘mistake’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Saturday told former Irish premier Enda Kenny, still a member of the EU nation’s parliament, that the 28-nation bloc should not make a “third mistake” regarding Cambodia by using the preferential Everything But Arms (EBA) agreement to “take 16 million

  • US senators call for GSP trade privilege cut

    Two US senators on Wednesday introduced the Cambodian Trade Act of 2019 bill, requiring the administration to re-examine Cambodia’s eligibility to access the preferential trade treatment granted by the US under the General System of Preferences (GSP). A Cambodian government spokesman said the move was