Oddar Meanchey province officials have ordered a halt to homebuilding on filled-in parts of the lake near the home of Ta Mok, in a bid to preserve the area as a tourist destination, authorities said Sunday.
Two homes have already been built on half a hectare of land that was created by filling in the Anlong Veng district lake that the late Khmer Rouge military commander Ta Mok created, said deputy district governor Peuy Saroeun. Poles and fences demarcate property lines on three more hectares of lake, which people also hope to fill in, he added.
“We ordered them to dismantle their houses and take away the poles and fences from the lake because it is the state’s property and it is a place for tourists to sit and relax,” he said.
The order was delivered several months ago, but authorities are still waiting for action from the lake’s would-be developers, he added. He said rising land prices have drawn people to Anlong Veng, but he declined to say who was responsible for the encroachment on the lake.
Peuy Saroeun said the district wants to expand and decorate Ta Mok’s house and add benches around the lake to attract more tourists, but lacks the funding. Every day 10 to 40 tourists come to see Ta Mok’s house, with Cambodians paying 25 cents for entry and foreigners $1, he said.
Improvements to the road from Siem Reap province to Anlong Veng—currently a three-hour journey—should be finished in two years, he said. “We hope when the road is built we will have more tourists to visit,” he said.
Tourism Minister Thong Khon said that Anlong Veng is on a list of protected historical sites now being evaluated by the Council of Ministers. “Local authorities have the duty to stop anyone from building on and confiscating these sites,” he said.
Ta Mok’s niece Ven Ra said Sunday that the lake should be protected, not just for drinking water and fish, but for history.
“It is a historical site,” she said. “It was Ta Mok’s achievement for the Cambodian people there, and they together shall keep it for a new generation.”