Decisive action is being taken against illegally clearing, encroaching upon or occupying flooded forest lands and protected areas by provincial authorities in Kampong Thom, Battambang and Stung Treng provinces. 

They have instructed local authorities to enforce the law rigorously, following Prime Minister Hun Manet’s recent call for sustainable and inclusive land registration and demarcation around Tonle Sap Lake. 

The aim is to safeguard fish and biodiversity in the areas for the benefit of all and future generations.

“Preserving the flooded forest around the lake is not merely about safeguarding short-term individual interests; it is crucial for our nation’s long-term prosperity. Therefore, ensuring its protection is a vital undertaking,” said the prime minister.

Kampong Thom deputy governor Sok Hay stated on February 7 that he has directed town and district authorities to conduct daily patrols in flooded forest areas of the province, as well as in forest and state land. 

He also noted that provincial leaders regularly inspect these areas to ensure all regulations imposed at the provincial level are properly adhered to by sub-level officials.

“In each town and district, we maintain headquarters equipped with patrol forces. Should crimes occur in flooded areas or instances of forest land encroachment arise, authorities within each jurisdiction will apprehend perpetrators for lawful punishment,” he said.

Hay also appealed to all individuals, regardless of their intentions, to refrain from encroaching upon the protected areas, warning that failure to cease the actions would result in the nation losing vital habitats for numerous species.

Battambang provincial deputy governor Soeum Bunrith explained that despite the introduction of various measures by provincial leaders and the government to prevent encroachment on these areas, some perpetrators persist in destroying natural resources and biodiversity, worsening conditions day by day.

He asserted that provincial authorities have instructed the four towns and districts adjacent to the lake to enforce the strictest legal measures, regardless of the offenders’ positions or connections.

“We also urge the authorities to thoroughly investigate and apprehend those involved to compile cases for court proceedings without exception,” he said.

Bunrith said that provincial leaders have instructed town and district authorities to crack down on all fishing offences, particularly focusing on enforcing legal penalties and educating individuals who have used illegal equipment.

Away from Tonle Sap Lake, Stung Treng provincial governor Svay Sam Eang stated on February 5 that individuals have engaged in cutting, burning, clearing, encroaching upon and occupying protected land in the province.

He noted that some have even taken part in fraudulently purchasing and selling state land under the pretext of a lack of land for farming and to support basic needs.

“On behalf of the National Committee for Preventing and Combating Natural Resource Crimes, provincial leaders have issued an order to halt any encroachment actions. No individual has the right to encroach upon forest land, occupy or divide land in community forests, flooded forests and protected areas,” he said.

He advised local authorities, including village and commune chiefs, town-district administrations, and specialised departments to cease issuing certificates for selling, purchasing, or transferring ownership of state land.