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Officials suspected of illegally clearing land

Officials inspect flooded forest land on Friday that was cleared illegally in Kampong Chhnang province. Photo supplied
Officials inspect flooded forest land on Friday that was cleared illegally in Kampong Chhnang province. Photo supplied

Officials suspected of illegally clearing land

A commune chief and his deputy are suspected of involvement in an illegal land clearing case in Kampong Chhnang’s Boribor district after police stopped three people in the act of cutting down flooded forest.

Khuon Saorum, Boribor district governor, said his forces stopped three loggers on Friday afternoon from clearing a protected flooded forest in Chhnok Trou village and released them in exchange for signing a contract promising to stop the clearing.

“The criminals [behind them] will not manage to escape the law,” Saorum said.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a commune council member implicated Chhnok Trou First Deputy Commune Chief Long Sokhum, local market fee collector Yem Buntha and another villager.

He added that the newly elected commune chief, Tan Kemsorn, “might be involved”, a charge that Kemsorn denied, saying the clearing happened before he was elected.

Former Commune Chief Samrith Pheng, however, also said the new chief played a role in the clearing. “I believe that [Kemsorn] knows who is involved . . . But I think he might receive some interest [money] from those people as well,” he said, adding that the authorities had put off investigating the case.

Sokhum and Buntha admitted that they had given the orders to clear the flooded forest “for temporary cultivation”.

“At least 10 people [are involved] and 10 hectares have been cleared,” Sokhum said. “We will hand it back to the state when the state wants it.”

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