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Commune chief accused of clearing state forestland

Tractors sit on an area of illegally cleared forestland in Kampong Thom province's Sandan district. Photo supplied
Tractors sit on an area of illegally cleared forestland in Kampong Thom province's Sandan district. Photo supplied

Commune chief accused of clearing state forestland

A Forestry Administration official said yesterday that authorities have filed a court complaint accusing a commune chief in Kampong Thom province of clearing protected state forestland for private sale.

Sao Vanny, chief of the Forestry Administration for Sandan district, said that two tractors were seized during a crackdown on illegal forest clearing on Friday, and that authorities had also found about 3.5 hectares of forestland cleared for sale.

“After a few days of investigation, authorities realised that both tractors belonged to Huot Chheang, the chief of Sroeung commune,” Vanny said. “The authorities have made a case to charge him with secretly clearing reserved forestland of the state.”

Reached yesterday, Chheang denied that the area cleared was state-owned, claiming that a cashew farmer named “Heang” rented 5 hectares to his son.

“Before clearing, I asked for permission from the district governor . . . and [he] told me that clearing a five-hectare farm can be decided by the commune authorities if the land is private,” he said.

“Therefore, I decided to allow my son to take the job.”

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