Three villagers in Pursat’s Bakan district have been charged with the illegal clearing of state land and put under provisional detention.
Officials reported last Sunday that three men were detained two days earlier, after being captured using a tractor and chainsaw to deforest a protected area.
Pinsangkun Oudom, chief of Bakan district’s forestry administration, said that a proposed land owner, Eng Sroh, 23; a tractor owner Pin Chanreth, 29; and his employee and driver Thun Nuy, 20, were arrested on Thursday in Talo commune’s Takok village, where they were using the tractor to clear state land illegally.
“The [hopeful] land owner claimed that he bought it with a legal document. However, he alongside the tractor owner and his driver have been charged and await further investigation; although they were employed to clear the land,” Oudom said.
Oan Sothea, deputy chief of the provincial land management department, said the state land the three men were clearing has been prepared by the provincial authority for social land concessions for the poor and for war veterans.
He could not specify the size of the area put aside for the vulnerable, but added that “the tractor and a chainsaw had been confiscated and held at the forestry administration’s office.”
Phuong Sothea, provincial co-ordinator for rights group Adhoc, said that a total of 10 citizens had been arrested for clearing land illegally since June 2012, but added that it seems those ordering the activity are overlooked.
“Only the ordinary people are arrested. Of course, some of them are believed to be getting orders from the rich and the powerful, but they are never arrested,” he said.
In a separate case, more than 100 farmers from Taing Kok village in the Talo commune submitted a joint letter to the commune hall yesterday requesting volunteer students measure land for them faster.
Neang Yus, Talo commune’s representative from the Cambodian People’s Party, said that people are concerned with ensuring legal land titles are issued before the rainy season begins.
“They have asked the authorities and volunteering students to measure the land for them,” Yus said.