Angkor Disputants Pitch Tents in Protest, Made to Leave

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A supplied photo showing village residents and security guards on November 11, 2022, in Siem Reap.
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Siem Reap families set up camp on disputed land this week in protest of their former farms being used to resettle Angkor park evictees, but have left under threat from authorities, the residents said.

Authorities have this year asked around 10,000 families living within the Angkor Archaeological Park to relocate from the historical area, saying their presence could lead to the loss of Unesco world heritage status. Officials have warned residents that they would get no compensation if they didn’t agree to move.

One resettlement site designated for those families is Run Ta Ek, an area about 25 km northeast of Angkor Wat.

But last month, around 200 families near the resettlement site took issue with the plan, saying the state had taken the Run Ta Ek land away from them in 2005 without compensation. They had put up with the dispossession believing the land would be used by the state, but they could not accept their former farms simply being handed to other people, they have said.

Protester Sam Mom said the disputants had met with district officials and the Apsara Authority on Monday seeking compensation, but no agreement could be reached.

In response, about one member from each of the 200 families set up camp in Run Ta Ek that evening, Mom said.

Around 10 p.m., authorities arrived and threatened to remove them with force if they didn’t leave, he said.

“Last night we slept on our land at Run Ta Ek village, but village guards came and asked the people not to camp,” Mom said, referring to the resettlement site.

Another protester, Ran Ra, said the 200 families no longer had enough farmland. Officials were asking them for documents, including land titles, that they had never issued for them, he added.

Penh Pren, a village chief who participated in the protest, said compensation of $500-$700 per hectare had been promised in 2005, but the residents never received it.

“This is an injustice because I am the real landowner. They took my land and gave it to illegal Angkor residents. I am not happy,” Pren said.

Prasat Bakorng deputy district governor Nin Sovann denied that authorities made threats to the campers, saying they had only negotiated with them to remove their tents.

Officials would meet with the residents again on Friday to try to reach an agreement on the land, Sovann said.

This story was edited on November 17, 2022, to include that Penh Pren is a village chief in Run Ta Ek commune.

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