Prime Minister Hun Sen Monday ordered copies of a controversial land-use subdecree distributed to residents of Siem Reap, saying the proposed law will hurt them.
“I would like to ask my Cabinet to distribute this draft to the people in Siem Reap and diplomats for study whether it can be implemented, because those who will lose the benefit are the people,” he said during a speech at Kirirom National Park.
Hun Sen refused to sign the subdecree on Friday, saying it would force “hundreds of poor” from their homes and calling for the dissolution of the Apsara Authority that helped draft it.
He said the subdecree appeared to have been drafted by foreigners who have little understanding of poverty in Cambodia and who have too much influence within the authority.
He repeated his opposition Monday. “This was why my threat to dissolve the Apsara Authority was not wrong. It has created more problems [for the government],” he said.
It is the second time Hun Sen has criticized the Apsara Authority this year. Vann Molyvann, ousted in June as president of the authority at the prime minister’s request, said he was fired for trying to control construc tion near the temples.
Diplomats and officials on Sunday expressed concerns about Hun Sen’s new attack on Apsara and the subdecree, but said they were not certain what to think, as they had not yet seen the subdecree.
Some expressed puzzlement, as the area addressed in the subdecree—two 250-meter strips along either side of Route 6—is mostly home to large new hotels and tourist businesses, with few small landholdings remaining.
Copies remained unavailable Monday, but Hun Sen provided more details about what he finds objectionable. The subdecree is part of a five-year plan to control development around the temples. It would require approval from Apsara for buildings within various protected zones.
The protected area is just too big, and a more reasonable zone would be 25 meters along either side of the road, Hun Sen said. If the subdecree were enforced, “schools and hotels along the road would have to be torn down” because they are located within 250 meters of the road, he said.
According to Hun Sen, the subdecree also requires houses to be built of brick, and does not allow lots smaller than 15 meters wide. “So what happens to houses built of other materials?” he asked. “And if a family has only 10 meters, what should they do? Sell their land?”
Officials who helped draft the subdecree could not be reached for comment Monday. Many were in Siem Reap attending the annual symposium on the Bayon temple, which ends today.
On Wednesday, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and the International Committee for the Safeguarding and Development of the Historic Site of Angkor begin a two-day meeting on the various projects underway to preserve the temples.
A special topic this year is a discussion of different proposals for tourism development in the area, according to a Unesco spokesperson.
(Additional reporting by Michelle Vachon)