Thousands of Commune Residents Protest Potential Angkor Evictions

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A screenshot from a supplied video showing residents gathered outside the Preah Dak commune hall on October 5, 2022.

Around 3,000 people protested outside the Preah Dak commune office Wednesday after the Apsara Authority asked them to move to the Run Ta Ek resettlement site, the latest in a series of evictions sweeping the Angkor Archaeological Park.

Commune resident Chea Virak told VOD that he and his neighbors were outraged at the suggestion of leaving, which stemmed from visits by the Apsara Authority on Tuesday and Wednesday.

“We do not agree to leave, because we have been living in the village for years,” he said. “We don’t want to leave due to the financial impact. If we go to a new place, what should we do for a living?”

“We want to live here. We won’t evacuate to a new place.”

Resident Nin Norn said his family has lived in the commune for three generations and that Run Ta Ek — the “ecovillage” where Prime Minister Hun Sen has ordered thousands of families from Angkor to relocate — will only provide a plot of land measuring 20 by 30 meters.

In his current Preah Dak home, his home occupies 30 by 200 meters, along with a 5-hectare rice farm. The exchange is unacceptable, he said.

“I’m not a state worker getting a salary every month,” Norn said. “I’m just a farmer, living dependent on farming. No matter how big your land, the Authority will only give you 20 by 30 meters.”

Recently reported relocations from the Angkor park in red.

Preah Dak commune chief Phin Thorng told VOD that 3,000 people picketed the commune office, representing nearly one-third of the roughly 9,600 people who live there. Apsara has not set a date when residents will be required to leave, and only came to speak with residents about volunteering to do so.

“I don’t know about this clearly, we are waiting from the top to decide,” Thorn said. “But the authorities came this morning only to observe and ask the people. I don’t know if they will leave or not. I don’t have an answer.”

Apsara Authority spokesperson Long Kosal declined to answer questions and referred inquiries to the Ministry of Land Management, whose spokesperson could not be reached for comment.

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