Apsara Authority Staff to Be Compensated From National Budget

Compensation for food and petrol for the more than 500 Apsara Authority staff members who are moving to offices far outside of Siem Reap as part of a swap with the city’s provincial government will come from government revenues, an official at the authority said Monday.

In an August 9 letter, Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered Siem Reap’s municipal and provincial officials to return to the city center after having moved to rural Ampil commune in March 2010.

The provincial government moved there in a highly controversial land swap deal orchestrated by Siem Reap’s former governor, Sou Phirin, and provincial officials last week criticized the move for adding travel time to and from work, as well as costing them more in petrol.

Now that the province’s administration is moving back to the center of Siem Reap, 533 employees of the Apsara Authority, which manages the Angkor Archaeological Park, will vacate their Siem Reap premises and move to the Ampil site.

Faced with the impending move, employees have demanded compensation and last week they were promised 30 liters of petrol per month each as well as a daily meal stipend of 15,000 riel, or about $3.75.

Im Sokrithy, the officer in charge of the communications department at the Apsara Authority, said the compensation for employees would come directly from the government’s budget.

“It would come from the government’s budgets,” he said. “All the money that we are spending for the staff is part of the government budget that comes from ticket sales.”

He added that equipment from the Ampil site had already arrived at the Apsara Authority’s offices but no work had started yet at the premises.

At current prices, the petrol stipend for the 533 staff will cost approximately $20,000 a month and the daily food stipend will cost about $40,000 per month. In total, compensation for the Apsara Authority’s staff will be worth roughly $720,000 a year.

Revenues at the Angkor Archaeological Park are shared between the government and Cambodian conglomerate Sokimex Group, which has the operating license to sell tickets. But Mr. Sokrithy said only money from the government side of the revenue deal would be used to reimburse staff for their travel and food costs.

The March 2010 move for the provincial government apparatus from Siem Reap’s city center to a 42-hectare plot of land in Ampil was undertaken by J&R Import, Export and Construction Company. Bypassing a competitive bidding process, the company was awarded the provincial government’s valuable buildings in the city center in exchange for building about 60 new office buildings in Ampil.

Chhmoeu Jeudi, an Apsara Au­thority employee, said that the of­fices in Ampil were located within Zone 2 of the Angkor Archaeological Park, an area where the Authority typically prohibits buildings with concrete foundations.

The historic park is dividing by a zoning system, with Zone 1 containing sites of the most archaeological significance, while Zone 2 has archaeological remains “which need to be protected from damaging land use practices and inappropriate development,” according to the Apsara Authority website.

“The offices we are going to move into were built near the end edge of Zone 2 where the buildings with strong foundations are prohibited, except for buildings that are removable, such as vendor stores,” Mr. Jeudi said.

Mr. Sokrithy said Monday that the buildings built by J&R were “not illegal” though he declined to provide any details on the specifications of the properties on the site.

(Additional reporting by Dene-Hern Chen)

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