A deputy district military police chief in Kampong Thom’s Santuk district is under scrutiny for allegedly clearing up to seven hectares of community forest land for personal gain, and district officials are investigating the case with the aim of presenting it at the provincial court at the end of April, a district official said yesterday.
Villagers in Kraya commune filed a complaint to Santuk district officials, the provincial hall and forestry authorities against deputy district military police chief Hor Dina for allegedly grabbing and clearing “six to seven” hectares of community forest, district governor Pich Sothea said.
“Forestry officials and I will summon him at the end of this month. Provincial forestry officials are investigating this case and are preparing [it] for court. They will find out how he got the land, how many hectares of land he cleared and to what extent it is within the forest law,” he said.
According to Sothea, Dina was known to have encroached upon the community forest since 2012 and had undertaken logging activities besides planting crops on the cleared forest land, but more evidence was needed to build a case.
“We asked the provincial authorities for a solution because we are worried [that others] will plan to clear forests because they see him as an example,” local resident Chan Ra, 45, said.
The Veal O’Kdey community forest was recognised at the provincial level in 2002 when residents asked for the preservation of the 4,500-hectare forest, but this is still awaiting approval from the Ministry of Interior. About 1,000 people depend on the community forest for their livelihoods.
Dina could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Only a month ago, rights group Adhoc organised a national campaign to raise pressure on authorities to settle land disputes according to the law.
On the day the campaign was launched, more than 100 complaints were filed by victims of land grabs across the country.