Villagers to Be Cleared From Preah Vihear Protected Area

The National Authority for Preah Vihear has ordered about 300 families squatting in the protected area below the temple to move from the Unesco World Heritage Site and its surroundings as the authority plans to build its offices there, officials said yesterday.

Chuch Phoeun, director of the National Authority for Preah Vihear, said all villagers living in the temple’s protected area, which covers the temple and an area at the base of the mountain, must leave as soon as possible. He said that the Svay Chrum area, located a few kilometers from the foot of the mountain, would be used to build a NAPV office and a conference hall.

“We have already given them three notices to move out and this is the last one. The people cannot be permitted to build houses disorderly in that area,” he said.

Mr Phoeun warned that any villagers who refused to move would have their houses dismantled. “If they refuse to leave, the [NAPV] will take action to move the houses.”

More than 800 other families that had been living near the temple were relocated to Choam Ksan district’s Kantuot commune several months ago to clear the protected area around the temple.

Kantuot commune chief Moul Map said about 300 families had been living in the Svay Chrum area since 2002. He said a provincial work­ing group had recently conduc­ted a census that found there were 229 occupied homes and 97 uninhabited houses in the protected area.

Officials said villagers who agreed to move would receive a 50-by-100 meter plot of land, construction ma­terial and $400 in compensation.

A villager who only identified himself as Rin said he had lived in the Svay Chrum area since 2002 and could not move into the new village be­cause he had worked hard to clear a 1-hectare plot of land where he was now growing crops.

“I will not move to a new place because I will lose a piece of farmland here,” Mr Rin said.

NAPV officials also said that ef­forts to restore the temple, which is bullet-scarred and in disrepair in places, was a priority now that tourists had begun to arrive in greater numbers.

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