Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Ghost village

Shop-owner Kouch in the village of Kor Mouy at the foot of Preah Vihear in 2002
The village at the foot of Preah Vihear mountain, Kor Mouy, which was a collection of shacks that housed the families of soldiers when I first visited the mountain and temple in 2002, will soon be a ghost village as all the families are being moved, one by one, to a new village 13kms away. On spurious claims that its for their safety and that they need to construct a car park and museum on the site, about 500 families are being relocated. "To maintain the natural architecture and natural landscape," is the official version. "We will reforest the natural landscape and restore the baray, the ancient reservoir," which the village sits on, claim officials. The residents that are being shifted include shop owners like Kouch, who I met eight years ago, as well as guesthouse owners like Sophalline, who ran the Raksaleap GH, where I slept on another occasion. They are getting building supplies, 5,000 square meters of land and 2 million riel, or about $500, for each family. Sad to think that by the time of my next visit, all traces of the village may have disappeared. How will Kouch and Sophalline make a living in a new village that no-one will want to visit. Apparently, that's progress.
In an unrelated story, Wildlife Alliance have criticised plans to develop a titanium mine in Koh Kong province that will cover 20,000 hectares in Thma Bang, and impose on their ecotourism project in Chi Phat, as well as threatening protected forest in the area. WA have spent over half a million dollars on their ecotourism projects in the region over the last nine years and are worried that the titanium mine will have negative impacts on their work with the community. Even though the permits have yet to be issued by the government ministries, the mining company have already built roads and bridges into the area. There are existing concerns over five hydroelectric dams that are being built by the Chinese in the same stretch of the Cardamom Mountain region, an area regarded by scientists as a priceless ecological treasure.

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