Historic homes at risk from dam project

Source: Khmer Times

The owners of seven historic houses in Battambang province have hit out at local authorities over a plan to move their 80-year-old properties to allow for the construction of a dam.

The houses are located in Prek Kporp commune, Ek Phnom district, near Stueng Sala Ta Oun river.

Thai Sitha, who often opens her home to local and international tourists, said district and provincial authorities have asked her and other residents to move their homes about 70 metres away from the river.

“They have asked us to move seven very old houses,” she said. “I have seen their map and three of the houses are located directly in the area where they plan to construct the dam. My house and the other three are not in that area.

“They asked us to move, giving the reason that we would have more space, but we do not agree, because we already have a lot of land and our house is 80 years old.”

Another home owner, who asked not to be named, said he also opened his house for tourists to visit and learn about local culture.

He said the community sells fruit and drinks to visitors and has a donation box, where people give money to build local schools.

He said he has asked the authorities to reconsider the plan to move their homes.

Ek Phnom district governor Long Sopeoun said the dam development is a national government scheme supported by Korea.

It will cost about $30 million and is intended to help farmers working across about 20,000 hectares in Battambang province.

He said more than 1,000 families affected by the development will receive government compensation for the homes in line with market rates.

The authorities have yet to decide whether to remove the historic houses, which are not on any official heritage list, he added.

Mr Sopeoun said: “The government has yet to decide what to do. As with any development project, the government will consider the case of the residents and make sure they don’t do anything that causes losses to citizens.”

Speaking at a Unesco meeting earlier this month, Prime Minister Hun Sen called on institutions working in the heritage sector to conduct research to identify buildings that need to be preserved.

He said the move was necessary to allow development to go ahead in some areas and to carry out preservation work in others.

“It is necessary to preserve and protect some buildings, but we can’t keep whole cities from being developed,” Mr Hun Sen said.

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