The UNESCO world heritage site of Angkor Wat, the largest religious complex in the world, is facing a humanitarian crisis. About 10,000 people who live in and around the site have been told that they must move before the new year. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen describes it as “voluntary relocations,” but residents being pushed out of their homes and businesses with very little compensation view it more as forced mass eviction.
The temples of Angkor Wat span 400 square kilometres and were designated as a UNESCO world heritage site in 1992. It is considered one of the most important religious complexes in the world, like the Vatican. It is also the primary income driver for the town of Siem Reap and home to about 10,000 residents who set up shops, offer guide services, and sell food and souvenirs around the complex.
But last summer, authorities began showing up at market stalls telling everyone they had to be out by the end of the year at the latest. Some have been offered small plots of land as compensation. The land is in an undeveloped area about 20 kilometres away from Angkor Wat which wouldn’t provide much by way of work opportunities for the relocated residents.