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Families free to remain in protected forest area

BATTAMBANG provincial authorities on Tuesday ruled that 68 families in Ek Phnom district could continue farming on land that is part of a protected forest area, one day after they led an inspection of the site, officials said.

The families in Bak Prea village, Prey Chas commune, said they were informed in December that they would be required to leave the 74.5-hectare site where some had lived since 1983.

However, after touring the site on Monday, officials concluded that the families could remain there, though they will not be eligible for land titles.

“We allow them to plant on their land, but we cannot allow them to control the land or receive land titles because the government has the right to control it,” said Battambang Deputy Governor Saing Southong.

Yin Mengly, the provincial coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, said he welcomed the decision.

“They answered the people’s request,” he said, “because they just wanted to plant on their land.”

He added that the presence of the families could curtail illegal logging in the protected forest area.

“The villagers will be watchdogs to stop those who come to cut down the forest. They can protect the forest,” he said.

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