Deadline Passes but Angkor Vendors Are Not Moving Out

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Angkor Wat complex in Siem Reap on June 6, 2020 (Matt Surrusco/VOD)
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About 57 food and souvenir stalls directly next to Angkor Wat temple were told by officials to take down their booths and depart by Friday, but have not moved out even as the deadline passed.

Chan Kanha, 34, is among the Angkor vendors who were told to remove her souvenir shop from Angkor Park by Friday. The sellers’ booths are part of a larger campaign against people living or doing business in the Unesco-designated world heritage site known as Angkor Archaeological Park. These activities, according to officials, may be against the law close to the temples and jeopardize the park’s Unesco designation.

However, Kanha said there should have been an agreement on compensation and relocation before ordering them to stop their businesses. The sellers want compensation and a new place where they can continue their trade, she said.

“As a souvenir vendor, our main income largely depends on foreign tourists who are visiting Angkor Wat. If we move to other places far away from here, I do not know how we could sell. Therefore, we will not move anywhere until a suitable decision is made,” she said.

Kanha, who has three children, said she needed the souvenir shop to pay for her family’s expenses and to repay debts incurred during Covid-19 when tourism came to a standstill.

“We were trying hard to survive during the time when the Covid-19 pandemic spread widely in early 2021,” she said. “And now, when the situation is getting better and tourists are starting to come back, we are asked to move to another place. Is this appropriate?”

Kanha said that although today was the deadline to leave given by officials, no local authorities had turned up. So vendors have continued as usual, she said.

Some 171 people connected to the stores thumb-printed and addressed a letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday appealing for assistance, saying they had previously been told they could relocate to a legally recognized vending area in front of the temple.

“I have been doing business here for over 10 years. So the authorities should find a proper solution for me as well as other shop owners. If we happen to relocate Run Ta Ek, that is over for our business,” Kanha said in tears, referring to an eco-village some 20 km from the temple area.

Hy Say, director of the Siem Reap provincial land management department, said on Friday that authorities did not know where those souvenir and restaurant stall owners inside the Angkor temple complex would be moved to yet. As of now, he said, the authorities were busy relocating those who had houses in the Angkor park to Run Ta Ek. 

Long Kosal, spokesperson of Apsara Authority, could not be reached for comment.

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