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Families get titles in sanctuary

A 1,500-HECTARE area of land in Banteay Meanchey’s Daun Roneam Daun Sam wildlife sanctuary has been reclassified for residential housing and agricultural development.

The land in Malai district’s Tuol Pongro commune was demarcated in a sub-decree signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen last Friday, following a 2009 request by provincial authorities.

Some 528 poor families had been living in the sanctuary without land titles since the 1970s but would now be given legal permission to reside there, Banteay Meanchey provincial office spokesman Ouk Keo Ratanak said. The families from four different communes in Malai district would be granted two hectares of land for farming each and incorporated into efforts to curb illegal logging.

“Those who are living in Snuol on the boundary of  Roneam Daun Sam wildlife sanctuary will become conservers and help to prevent [the degradation of] wildlife and the protected forest land from encroachment by wood traders,” he said.

Sum Chan Key, the local coordinator for rights group Adhoc, praised the decision. “It’s a good idea to give the land to villagers so they will be able to live legally on it and hand it over to the next generation,” he said.

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