As an eviction operation inside Angkor Archaeological Park continues to plod forward, making modest progress after four days of removals, some residents have now asked authorities to give them more time to tear down the structures themselves.
The campaign is led by the Apsara Authority, the park’s managing body, and was organized to remove more than 500 structures that Apsara has said were illegally built inside the park during the weeks leading up to the June commune elections. New construction is tightly regulated inside the world heritage site.
Forty-nine homes and shops have been torn down since Thursday, according to Apsara spokesman Long Kosal, and the eviction crews were accompanied by police and military police after several villagers threatened to protest the removals.
“Our working group is working to remove the illegal construction in Angkor Archaeological Park every day, and we will keep up the removal work until [it] is finished,” Mr. Kosal said on Sunday.
He added that he was not aware of any protests against the removals, but that residents had “asked us to give time for them to remove them voluntarily, and we agreed to give them one day to do it.”
Ek Sai, 67, a homeowner in Preah Dak commune’s Ta Tray village, was one of the villagers asking for more time.
“I am now removing the house by myself because we are not able to keep it,” he said, adding that voluntarily removing the home would allow him to preserve the construction materials for future use.
Villagers have claimed that authorities looked the other way when the buildings were being erected in an attempt to curry political favor, and documents reviewed by reporters show the former CPP commune chief had signed applications for the construction in the weeks leading up to the June contest.
The ruling party lost the election in the commune to the CNRP. Shortly after, the Apsara Authority announced the evictions, sparking months of protests from angry residents.
Villagers have argued that the demolitions are a form of political retribution, noting that similar constructions were left untouched following previous elections. The Apsara Authority has consistently said they are simply enforcing the law, a position backed by Anne Lemaistre, the country’s Unesco representative.
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