Half of the 490 families from Kor Muoy village by Preah Vihear temple have been relocated and the other half must leave within three months as part of government plans for the restoration of the area around the temple, according to Sous Yara, undersecretary of state at the Council of Ministers.
The villagers are being moved about 13 km away “to maintain the natural architecture and natural landscape” of the 11th century Hindu sanctuary, which was declared a World Heritage Site two years ago this month, Mr Yara said yesterday.
“We will reforest the natural landscape and restore the baray, the ancient reservoir,” Mr Yara said, explaining that the village, which is on the plain beneath the mountaintop temple, used to be the site of a man-made reservoir.
But Mr Yara said the government also wants to make sure that Kor Muoy residents are out of harm’s way in the event that fighting erupts again with Thai troops stationed near the temple.
“Most important is the safety of the people,” Mr Yara said.
Families are in the process of being relocated to Thomacheat Samdech Techo village, also in Choam Ksan district’s Kantuot commune, with between 10 and 20 leaving each week, according to Mr Yara. There they are given building supplies, 5,000 square meters of land and 2 million riel, or about $500, he added.
Residents interviewed by telephone yesterday said they accepted the need to relocate, although in the past villagers have expressed opposition to the move.
“It is the land for Preah Vihear [temple],” said Som Nhim, owner of Prasat Thmei restaurant in Kor Muoy. “I am just temporarily living here and when they have the land for me, I will move.”
But Ms Nhim said she was not sure what she would do after the move, a sentiment echoed by Im Sophalline, owner of Raksaleap guesthouse.
“They told me to move since May but I haven’t moved yet since I don’t know what to do there,” said Ms Sophalline, adding that she would nevertheless relocate. “I can’t oppose since it is [Prime Minister Hun Sen’s] policy.”