Authorities have postponed until Monday the removal of more than 500 shops and homes illegally built in Angkor Archaeological Park in the weeks leading up to the June 4 commune elections, an Interior Ministry official said.
Ly Lay, the ministry’s heritage protection department director, said he had met with the Apsara Authority’s director-general, Sum Mab, on Wednesday afternoon. They had endorsed the decision to remove the buildings but delayed the action from the original timetable, he said. The buildings’ residents, from Siem Reap City’s Nokor Thom commune, had been told the removals would begin on Wednesday.
Mr. Lay said some of the buildings were built as close as 50 meters to Banteay Kdei Temple and seriously affected the park’s heritage value.
Provincial military police commander Por Vannit said he had been asked by Apsara, the government body that manages the park, to participate in the removal operation on Monday but had yet to receive authorization from the provincial governor to do so.
According to a report posted to Apsara’s website on Tuesday, 523 new buildings were constructed between May 20 and June 2 without authorization. Cultural zones designated in 1994 require that the government assess developments to protect the park.
Keo Vuthy, a police officer charged with protecting the park’s Keo Temple, said authorities should have prevented the homes from being built in the first place, rather than tearing them down.
“Apsara Authority came to look around and they took pictures when the people were doing the construction, but they didn’t stop it or ban it,” he said.
His wife had already dismantled their dilapidated home after constructing a new 8-by-9 meter house, Mr. Vuthy added. He said Apsara had informed him of the new timetable for removals on Wednesday night.
“The villagers will not agree to let the authorities remove their homes, because they don’t know where they will go,” he said. “They will not use violence against the authorities, but they will beg them not to take down their homes, and if they do they should give an appropriate resolution for the villagers.”
Long Kosal, a spokesman for Apsara, declined to comment on the case or say why the removals had been postponed.
pheap@cambodiadaily.com
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