The number of unauthorized pagodas crowding the national park near the Angkor Wat temple complex has risen to 10 despite the government’s promise to evict hundreds of monks and nuns living in the area before the Khmer New Year, Angkor Conservation Department Deputy Administrator Keo Saravuth said.
The Buddhist compounds, most built during the late 1980s and through the 1990s, are an eyesore that takes away from the park’s beauty and disrupts the environment, officials say. They also attract panhandlers who bother tourists and trash the scenic park.
“It is not suitable for people to live here because it can reduce the beautiful sights,” Heritage Police Deputy Chief Tan Chay said.
The pagodas have also grown larger as more of the faithful have flocked to them, Tan Chay said.
Despite the delays, Siem Reap provincial officials still are promising to move the monks and nuns out and dismantle the pagodas, provincial Deputy Governor Pich Sokhin said.
“I will move them, but I’m doing it step by step,” Pich Sokhin said.
Officials estimate there are 170 monks and nuns living in the pagodas. Even Buddhist authorities have supported the decision to evict the monks, saying the pagodas disrupt public order, and have accused several of the monks and nuns of taking donations for personal use.
The order to close down the pagodas was issued in March. It exempts two temples built in the 1940s that have been recognized by King Norodom Sihanouk.