Sok An Says Some Squatters Can Remain at Angkor Wat

Long-term residents of protected areas of the Angkor Wat compound will not be forced to relocate from their homes, Cabinet Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Sok An said at a Siem Reap seminar this week.

Attended by about 400 villagers and officials, Tuesday’s seminar was organized to distribute information from a subdecree signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen earlier this month relating to land use for residents of Apsara Authority-controlled areas. News that they would stay on their land came as a relief to villagers, officials said.

“Now, the people clearly understand about the issue after the meeting,” said Choung Ratana, secretary-general of Siem Reap provincial administration. Villager representatives could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Earlier this year, Hun Sen or­dered all squatters evicted from Apsara Authority-protected areas, following the eviction of several dozen families from the Angkor Wat compound last year.

Apsara Authority is reviewing local records of families living in the area before the early 1990s to determine how many families will be able to stay, Apsara Authority Director-General Bun Narith said Thursday.

In the early 1990s, there were 20,000 to 30,000 people living in the Angkor Wat compound, Bun Narith said. Now there are roughly 100,000, he said.

According to the subdecree, villagers have the right to remain on their land; repair their houses after submitting renovation plans to Apsara Authority for approval; and sell land to other area villagers or bequeath it to their children.“The people accept the three points,” Siem Reap Governor Sim Son said Wednesday.

Villagers are not allowed to expand their properties or sell to outside individuals or companies.

Villagers were also told to re­port any illicit pressure from government officials concerning their land to an Apsara Authority hot line set up to take such complaints or to the director general’s office, Choung Ratana said.


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