THE government has approved a sub-decree reclassifying more than 1,000 hectares of protected land in Koh Kong province as social land concessions, officials said.
The sub-decree, signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen on December 31, has turned more than a 1,000 hectares of Peam Krasop Wildlife Sanctuary in Khemarak Phomin Ville’s Stung Veng commune over to housing and agricultural land for local residents.
“We plan to provide 1,053 hectares to families who have lived there for a long time and for poor people in the province that have no land to build a house,” said Phai Thuon, governor of Khemarak Phomin Ville.
The 25,897-hectare Peam Krasop Wildlife Sanctuary was established in 1993 to protect one of the world’s last intact mangrove coastal ecosystems.
Phai Thuon said the local authorities would provide 15-metre-by-50-metre plots for the estimated 500 to 600 families, living in the area. “We also plan to set up an economic development area, fishing community area, ecotourism, mangrove forests and also protect against illegal fishing,” he added.
Suop Phosen, Stung Veng commune chief, said the subdecree would finally legalise the presence of the 612 families – totaling 2,800 people – who have lived in the area since 1979. When the royal decree was handed down in 1993 establishing the protected area, he said, the people were considered to be living there illegally. “Now they have become legal again after the sub-decree was issued,” he said, adding that local authorities had been requesting a 2,000-hectare concession zone since 2007.