Environmental rangers working with Angelina Jolie’s conservation foundation in Battambang and Pailin provinces say local authorities have been approving construction in protected areas without consulting the Environment Ministry.
Though ministerial permission is required to build in the protected zone, which is jointly managed by the Maddox Jolie-Pitt foundation, rangers with the group earlier this month discovered and tore down a house in Pailin’s O’Tavao commune, and also face the prospect of a military road being built through a protected zone in Samlot district in Battambang province.
Both the house and the road received a green light from local authorities in their respective areas without oversight by the Environment Ministry, creating “confusion” by officials in the area, said Maddox Jolie-Pitt Foundation Director Kong Mony Chan. “They only have the right to protect the land but not to manage and distribute it like this,” Mony Chan said.
The home and a small parcel of land were granted to Sari Samkhan, 35, and his wife Neang Vanny, 33, according to a letter signed by O’Tavao Commune Chief Suon Orn, who yesterday claimed he was acting within his authority.
The road was requested by Military Region 5 headquarters and approved by Samlot district authorities, however work has been suspended until a solution between the Environment Ministry and military can be reached, according to Battambang Provincial Environment Department Director Chuob Sarun.