Hun Sen Slams Angkor Eviction Subdecree

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Friday lashed out at a proposed subdecree that would clear land on either side of National Road 6 in the Angkor Wat area, forcing hundreds of poor from their homes.

The subdecree is part of a five-year plan for the temple area meant to buttress Cambodia’s famed Angkorian structures against rapidly increasing development and tourism.

But Hun Sen told his cabinet he would not approve the subdecree at the expense of Cambo­dians trying to live along the high­way. “I cannot sign this, the subdecree…I am not worried that the people have ownership of the land. I am worried that these people are poor,” the premier said.

He suggested the land use subdecree was drafted at the urging of foreign advisers will little re­gard or understanding for the often dire circumstances under which the country’s poor live. He also blasted the Apsara Auth­ority—the body tasked with preserving the temples—for having too much foreign influence. “The Apsara Authority should be dissolved. Nothing can be done. If we lose aid, let it be,” he said.

Temple preservationists, in­cluding former Apsara Authority head Vann Molyvann, have warn­ed that uncontrolled development in the Angkor Wat area is threatening one of Cambodia’s few internationally-known cultural legacies.

Even after being fired from his post earlier this year, Vann Moly­vann continued to say the rising tide of tourists expected to wash over the Angkor area re­mains the biggest threat to the temples.

But this view has angered many hoping to profit from the tem­ples, including powerful businessmen and government officials who have built resort-type facilities close to the temples.

Hun Sen said uncontrolled de­velopment of the temple area is better than “uncontrolled de­struc­­tion,” referring to the massive relocation of people required by the subdecree.

The Council of Ministers ap­proved a draft of the five-year development plan, but did not discuss the land use subdecree, saying it would be brought up in a future meeting.


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