Residents of villages neighboring the Preah Vihear temple attended an information session Tuesday on the government’s plans to relocate them, officials and villagers said.
Efforts by district and provincial officials to explain the reasons behind the displacement of the entire population of Kor Muy village did not, however, allay the complaints of at least 60 families who fear for their livelihoods.
About 150 villagers from both Kor Muy, the village at the bottom of the mountain where the temple stands, and Prasat, the burnt down market nearby, attended the meeting in Sra Em town, Provincial Deputy Governor Sar Thavy said.
Residents of both villages are being relocated as part of a preservation plan for the temple, and are being offered plots of land measuring 50 by 100 meters, construction materials and $500.
According to authorities, the move is for the protection of both the temple and the villagers, who live close to the border where Thai and Cambodian forces have occasionally fought.
However, Mean Rith, owner of the Kor Muy guesthouse closest to the temple, said $500 compensation is insufficient.
“I’ve spent several thousands of dollars to build my guesthouse. How could I rebuild a guesthouse with $500?” she asked, when contacted by telephone Tuesday. “My business will die if I move to a new location.”
She added that authorities were planning a lottery to distribute the best plots on the new site.
The protesting villagers from Kor Muy, who took their complaint to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s house in Kandal province Monday, think that rather than trying to protect the temple, local authorities are trying to grab their land, which is about to become much more valuable as tourism to the World Heritage site grows.
Sar Thavy, the deputy provincial governor, denied the accusation on Tuesday.
“People have accused me of colluding with other officials to kick them out from this area. What they think is wrong; it is the government’s decision, not mine,” he said.