In a broad swipe at destructive forces within the Angkor Wat temple complex, Prime Minister Hun Sen has ordered authorities in Siem Reap to crack down on looters, illegal loggers and businesses that encroach on the temple area.
“In the last few years the government has realized that in Siem Reap’s Angkor compound, anarchic activities practiced by a few small groups have increased and affect the preservation and development process in Siem Reap,” the premiere wrote in an order dated May 5.
Hun Sen ordered the Apsara Authority to disseminate information to local people about the preservation of the Angkor Wat complex and the importance of cooperating with local authorities to preserve the area’s heritage.
The military must order units in the area to join the crackdown and the Ministry of Interior must order the police to strengthen security around the temples, the order said. Police must also stop people from cutting trees and clearing land near the temples, Hun Sen wrote.
“We have to eliminate the devastation and looting of ancient things to preserve the temples and environment and establish the infrastructure and create security for visitors,” he wrote.
Apsara Authority Deputy Director-General Soeung Kong said problems have worsened in recent years because the authority did not have a directive from the Prime Minister granting them the power needed to fight looters and others.
“Although the authority has tried to prohibit them they are still cutting down the forests; now we have the directive and we have the power to stop them,” he said.
He said the authority has prepared a vacant field in front of Angkor Wat where vendors may sell their products.
“We will gather those vendors to sell their products in one place, because if we let them sell everywhere it will effect the temple’s beauty,” he said.
He said that some cases of looting still exist but have declined in recent years.