Families living in Koh Kong province have called on the provincial governor to intervene in what they claim are ongoing land disputes with Forestry Administration authorities and conservation NGO Wildlife Alliance.
Thirty-eight families from Mondul Seima and Khemarak Pumin districts have 110 hectares of land between them that authorities are refusing to allow student volunteers to measure, community representative In Chhron of Bak Khlang’s Cham Yeam village, said yesterday.
“In March, they came to measure the adjacent land and they promised to measure ours next time. But after Khmer New Year, the students said the land cannot be measured because it contains land mines,” she said, adding that families have not seen any mines since settling in 1997.
The families also called on authorities to release a man arrested for what they say are baseless charges of illegal land-clearing.
“On May 2, Wildlife Alliance came to arrest one resident for no wrongdoing. He is currently detained in prison and we insist that he is released because he is not guilty,” she said.
Wildlife Alliance country director Suwanna Gauntlett flatly refuted the families’ claim yesterday, saying Chea Sok Heng was caught by forest rangers after clearing almost four hectares of protected forest some 12 kilometres away from his village.
“There is no excuse for Mr Chea Sok Heng to be acting like this way. His forest-clearing is completely outside the perimeter of allowed land titles,” she said, adding that he is one of hundreds in the area who have been illegally clearing within protected forest areas away from their homes.
“We have never stopped them from living in their village,” she said.