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More than 200 families living in Sla Krom commune on the outskirts of Siem Reap town appealed to Prime Minister Hun Sen during the joint Cabinet meeting with Thailand Saturday to settle a land dispute between themselves and the Apsara Authority, the steward company of Angkor Wat.

“The villagers have accused the Apsara Authority of forcing them to sell their homeland—farms and rice fields—at a low price the people cannot accept,” said Vann Nara, a representative for the villagers.

Siem Reap’s first deputy governor, Oung Oeun, issued a directive ordering the villagers in July 2002 to stop construction and repairs and farming and asking them to sell their land to the Apsa­ra Authority. “The land is for the hotel zone of the Apsara Authority,” he wrote.

“We have lived in this village since 1980…. Our village has been recognized by the local authorities. What makes the Apsara Au­thority try to relocate us from our home?” Vann Nara said Monday.

The company is offering $2 to $4 per square meter of land, he said, but the offer should be $30 to $80 per square meter to give villagers enough money to relocate.

Soeung Kong, the deputy director general of the Apsara Author­ity, said Monday the Council of Ministers issued a subdecree in 1995 reserving 1,007 hectares for developing hotels, golf courses and other tourist facilities.

Soeung Kong said that 95 percent of the villagers residing on that allotment already have agreed to sell their land for $0.25 to $0.50 per square meter.

“Only a small percentage of villagers have not agreed with the price we offered,” he said.

A committee headed by the Ministry of Finance is negotiating a suitable price with the villagers, he said.

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