New Hope Community Centre says farm plan conforms to Apsara Authority regulations, but organization continues to withold official permission.
SIEM Reap-based NGO's six-month standoff with the Apsara Authority over the construction of a chicken farm near Bakong temple reached the boiling point last week when authority officials confiscated more than US$1,000 worth of equipment from the farm's proposed site.
Kerry Huntly, director of the New Hope Community Centre, said she is trying to reclaim the equipment, which includes a generator and 26 lengths of steel, as well as securing official permission to build the farm.
The New Hope Community Centre works in Mondul 3 village, one of the poorest tracts in the province. In January, Huntly said she developed plans to start a chicken and fish farm on land owned by Kem Sour, the managing director of New Hope. The plan was to send unemployed Cambodians to work on the farm, bring produce back to Mondul 3 to feed impoverished families, and sell additional eggs and fish to raise money for the NGO.
But the land earmarked for the chicken farm falls within a designated Apsara archaeological zone, and any construction must conform to rigid government regulations. Huntly said plans produced by New Hope met these demands.
"We applied through all the proper channels. We filled out what seemed like hundreds of forms, and we got the agreement of the commune chief.
She added: "All we wanted to do was put a big wire fence inside the property, not even on the boundary. "
When New Hope took the plan to the Apsara Authority in January, Huntly said she was told there would be no problems, but soon after Apsara blocked the proposal.
Huntly said she also refused to pay a $500 fee that she characterised as a bribe.
Four months ago, New Hope began construction on the farm despite the authority's objections.
"We thought we'd just build it." But she said on the third day of construction, when a row of fencing and concrete posts had been erected, Apsara officials pulled everything down.
She then sent complaint letters to UNESCO and claimed that two months ago, the Apsara Authority contacted New Hope with a tentative go-ahead and the promise that permission to restart construction would be provided within a week. That permission never materialised.
After a month of delays, New Hope began work, once again, on the chicken fence. Two weeks ago, the chicken farm was on the verge of completion. But just as the final work was being done, Huntly said, an Apsara representative came to the farm and told them to halt construction.
Then, last Monday, Apsara officials again dismantled the fence and confiscated equipment.
New Hope Community Centre is now meeting with Apsara Authority to discuss the problem, and also hopes to be able to dicuss the issue with the provincial governer.
The Apsara Authority declined to discuss the issue with the Post.