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Land clearing alleged in Samlot forest area

Settlers and rangers have cleared 200 hectares of Samlot Protected Forest in Battambang and Pailin provinces, according to local authorities and staff of the Maddox Jolie-Pitt Foundation, which is helping to protect the area.

An authority in Krachab Krom village in Pailin’s O’Tavao commune, who did not wish to be named, said that newcomers have been clearing land near six villages and planting crops such as cassava and corn on the cleared land.

“They are not local people, but migrants, and we do not know where they come from,” he said.

He added that forestry officials working in the area also clear the land, to a greater degree than simple villagers.

“The destroyer is the protector,” he said. “The environmental officers usually clear and grab dozens of hectares.”

An operational officer from the Maddox Jolie-Pitt Foundation, who also asked not to be named, said that since August, more than 10 hectares of forest have been cleared and two houses have been built.

A foundation spokesman was unavailable for comment.

Thorn Kimhong, director of the Samlot protected area, said he is taking legal measures against the land clearers, having inspected some of the newly erected houses last week.

“I forwarded a lawsuit to the court recently. Now, I am tracing another clearing case,” he said. “They rampantly clear the land. I will investigate whenever the land clearing occurs.”

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