Villagers Detain 3 Apsara Officials in Protest

Some 300 Siem Reap province vil­lagers living near Angkor Arch­a­eo­logical Park detained three Ap­sa­ra Authority officials for three hours Tuesday to protest demands that they no longer repair their own homes, villagers said.

The three men were released un­harmed after intervention by new­ly appointed Apsara Deputy Di­rec­tor, RCAF General Dom Hak, and CPP lawmaker Sieng Nam.

Residents of Chung Kaosou village said their action was sparked by a visit from 20 Apsara officials ear­lier in the day.

“Even if our roof leaks, they ban us from repairing it,” villager Chao Pao, 34, said by telephone.

He claimed that Apsara officials had gone door-to-door explaining that the restrictions on repairs were a prelude to the authority acquiring their land at below-market prices.

“Apsara Authority needs the land for constructing hotels…but they offer us only $2 per square me­ter and $0.50 per square meter for any plot of land without homes or crops,” Chao Pao said.

Village chief Chan Ravuth said vil­lagers hold land titles endorsed by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, which they received after being repatriated from Thai bor­der camps in 1991.

Apsara has been warning villagers against constructing new homes on their land since September, Chan Ravuth added.

Dom Hak said that his security of­ficials were merely making a door-to-door census ahead of the Angkor-Gyeongju World Culture Expo 2006, which is planned for November.

“We have no plan to evict those vil­lagers,” he said, adding that some of the villagers who were involved in the incident were drunk.

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