Officials Shocked Over PM’s Denouncement

Diplomats and officials Sunday expressed shock at Prime Mini­ster Hun Sen’s denunciation of a land-use subdecree governing strips of land on either side of Route 6 in Siem Reap.

“I was really surprised,” said one Cam­bodian official who had worked on the subdecree.

Japanese Ambassador Gotaro Ogawa agreed.

“We need some more information on this, but we were surprised. We don’t know exactly what areas he is talking about,” the ambassador said.

On Friday, the prime minister told the Council of Ministers he would not sign the subdecree because it would victimize “hundreds” of poor living along Route 6 in the Siem Reap area.

Hun Sen further blasted the Ap­sara Authority, which helped prepare the subdecree, for being too influenced by foreigners who do not understand Cambodia’s poor. Apsara Authority should be dissolved, the prime minister said.

Officials unwilling to be identified said they are confused by the attacks, because the sections of Route 6 that run through Siem Reap and its surrounding area were cleared of poor families several years ago.

But since copies of the subdecree were not distributed by the Council of Ministers, the officials said they could not be sure what areas the prime minister was talking about.

“We won’t really know until we see a copy of the subdecree,” one official said, noting it may not be made public until it arrives at the National Assembly.

The issue appears related to the large number of hotels and other tourist-oriented establishments that have been built in recent years along Route 6 between Siem Reap airport and the town.

A 1995 subdecree declares that land on either side of Route 6, extending back 250 meters on each side of the road, is to be regulated by the Apsara Authority. But sources said the subdecree was rarely enforced.

A new subdecree revising entities controlling development around the temples has been in the works for months. One source said that while Apsara would retain control of the temples themselves, the new legislation shifts more authority to local and national land-use officials for the development zones surrounding Siem Reap.

Apparently, that source said, local investors feel Apsara retains too much control over development along Route 6 in the new subdecree, and are not happy with the idea they must get the agency’s permission before building or altering structures.

Officials also wondered about Hun Sen’s suggestion that Apsara Authority be dissolved. The agency was created in 1995 after King Norodom Sihanouk asked the UN for emergency help to preserve the Angkorian temples, then under heavy pressure from looters.

Apsara, which is funded mainly by the French and Japanese governments in conjunction with the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, drew up extensive plans for protecting the temples and developing nearby tourist facilities.

Neither Apsara nor Unesco officials could be reached for comment Sunday.


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