‘Nearly 10,000 squatters leaving Angkor park’

Most popular tourist destination: Tourists visiting the Angkor Wat temple in Siem Reap province, Cambodia. — AFP

Some 9,900 families living in illegal structures at Cambodia’s Angkor Archeological Park have so far volunteered to resettle at new designated locations, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Manet said.

The 2,456ha relocated sites are situated in the Run Ta Ek area in Banteay Srei district and the Pak Sneng area in Angkor Thom district outside the ancient park.

“I’d like to thank all of you for voluntarily agreeing to move out of the Angkor Archeological Park to resettle at the new locations in order to preserve our ancestors’ world heritage site,” Hun Manet said in a speech during a visit to thousands of relocated households.

The prime minister noted the 401sq km Angkor park is home to 91 ancient temples built from the 9th to the 13th centuries.

“The site is a tourist magnet, attracting millions of international visitors to Cambodia, particularly to Siem Reap province,” he said.

The Cambodian government has started to move squatters out of the Angkor park after the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) warned that the ancient park could be withdrawn from its World Heritage List because too many illegal buildings were constructed in the Angkor area, which is against the terms and conditions set by the UN agency for heritage listing.

Each relocated family has received a plot of land measuring 20m wide by 30m long, and an ID card for the poor, which allows the cardholder access to monthly cash assistance and free healthcare for 10 years.

The exact number of the families still living illegally in the Angkor area is unavailable.

Inscribed on the Unesco’s World Heritage List in 1992, the Angkor is the most popular tourist destination in the South-East Asian country.

The park received roughly 700,000 foreign visitors in the first 11 months of 2023, up 211% compared to the same period last year, the state-owned Angkor Enterprise said, adding that it made US$32.5mil (RM151.78mil) in revenue from ticket sales during the January-November period, up 261% year-on-year. — Xinhua

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