Tuesday, August 11, 2009

What's the Apsara's Authority? (reading between the lines)

The Apsara Authority in Cambodia is the Authority for Protection and Management of Angkor and the Region of Siem Reap.

It's this "region of Siem Reap" that catches my attention and is the source of questionable conduct against the people in Siem Reap.

Here is how they describe themselves:

[T]he government has created APSARA, the Authority for the Protection and Management of Angkor and the Region of Siem Reap, in charge of research, protection and conservation of cultural heritage, as well as urban and tourist development. This legislative and institutional framework marks the beginning of a new active role Cambodia will take, responding to the call of her own people in the voice of her King, as well as to that of the international community, in managing Angkor as a national and world heritage for the generations to come.

APSARA, in collaboration with other governmental agencies, is responsible for:
  • Protecting, maintaining, conserving and improving the value of the archaeological park, the culture, the environment and the history of the Angkor region as defined on the World Heritage List.
  • Refining and applying the master plan on tourist development according to the five zones, defined in 1994 in the Royal Decree on the protection and management of Siemreap-Angkor and taking action against deforestation, illegal territory occupation as well as anarchy activities in Siemreap-Angkor.
  • Finding financial sources and investments.
  • Participating in the policy of cutting down poverty of the Royal Government in Siemreap-Angkor.
  • Cooperating with the Cambodian Development Council on the investments of all the projects that are involved with APSARA Authority’s mission.
  • Cooperating with ministries, institutions, funds, national and international communities as well as international governmental institutions and non-governmental organization on all projects related to APSARA Authority.

"Taking action against illegal territory occupation as well as anarchy activities in Seimreap-Angkor" is what really concerns me. How do they define "anarchy activities?" Is re-storing or building a house considered anarchy?

Apparently the answer is YES because in a certain village in Siem Reap Province, villagers are being threatened of eviction from their land and homes if they attempt to re-build their traditional homes, or build anything new on their own land. Yes, they have land titles!

APSARA Authority members are arriving in large groups (around 20 people) with guns to threaten and scare villagers. They warn that no one can have any new materials put on their homes. If they do, the APSARA Authority will return and take it away from the villagers.

So, what is a poor villager supposed to do if their traditional wooden house is being eaten away by termites and falling down around them? They cannot do anything to protect the house, so it must crumble around them. If they write a letter to the APSARA Authority to request to restore parts of the house, it is an invitation for the mob with guns to arrive at their doorstep.

And when there is no more house to live in, the only choice being offered by the APSARA Authority is to move to a small piece of land in a district which is more than 30km away! It would be just enough land to build a house. They would lose all of their land that they own and farmed on!

Does this sound familiar? Do the land evictions in Phnom Penh ring a bell?

What can be done? How can they stop their land from being taken away from them? This is land that many have lived on for generations, which pre-dates the Khmer Rouge.

Unfortunately in Cambodia, the poor are no match for the rich, or those authority.

Why is the APSARA Authority doing this? Why do they want this village's land so much that they are threatening the villagers by force? What is the plan behind the action?

The villagers do not know. They can only speculate. The APSARA Authority certainly doesn't tell them why they come when they arrive with their guns.

I have an idea, and it relates to the purposes outlined above from the APSARA Authority itself. However, you must read between the lines to discover how the APSARA Authority truly plans to implement its goals.

If you think that this is a human rights issue and that justice is not being carried out, please respond and let's start a discussion for developing a solution to this challenge.

1 comment:

  1. This really sucks! Is there someone I can write or call?