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Activist urges investigation of sanctuary encroachment

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Natural Resources and Wildlife Preservation Organisation director Chea Hean said nearly 100ha in the sanctuary was bulldozed. facebook

Activist urges investigation of sanctuary encroachment

A prominent forest activist in Kampong Speu province said he would ask the provincial Department of Environment on Wednesday to investigate land encroachment in the Phnom Oral Wildlife Sanctuary.

Chea Hean, the director of the Natural Resources and Wildlife Preservation Organisation, alleged that nearly 100ha in the sanctuary was being bulldozed for private ownership.

Hean urged provincial environmental officials to use the global positioning system (GPS) to demarcate land in the sanctuary to prevent such encroachment. He claimed officials tasked with managing the sanctuary had so far taken no legal action against the intruders.

“When it [part of the sanctuary] was bulldozed, I reported it to the Ministry of Environment secretary of state Neth Pheaktra who then came to the provincial department for intervention.

“The department allowed the sanctuary chief and his officials to examine it, but they didn’t take any action thereafter,” he said.

Hean claimed that in 10 days, around 25ha in two separate locations in the sanctuary in Trapaing Chor commune had been bulldozed, with nearly 100ha slated for unauthorised clearance.

He alleged that Oral district deputy police chief Morm An, Rasmey Samaki commune police officer Morn Tol and a Trapaing Chor commune clerk had colluded to bulldoze the protected sanctuary.

He said three pieces of machinery had been removed at night from the sanctuary after he sought an intervention from Nov Nak, the deputy director of the provincial environment department in charge of protected natural areas.

He said the area where the machinery stood before the removal had already been bulldozed.

“Nov Nak ordered his subordinates to implement the law, but they turned a deaf ear until the machinery was transported away.

“On Monday, Nak suggested I submit a letter the environment department requesting a joint examination and survey of the area,” he said.

Tol could not be reached for comment on Monday.

An, the Oral district deputy police chief, confirmed to The Post he had bulldozed more than 2ha in the area, but that he had a certificate issued in 2012 by the government-administered land-measurement volunteer students to prove his ownership.

“My land has a proper title. So before Chea Hean accuses someone of encroachment, he must first meet with the landowner for clarification,” he said.

While acknowledging that the area had been measured with a certificate issued by the volunteer students, Hean said it was because documentation was forged to deceive the volunteers that the area was farmland that residents relied on for their livelihood.

The area, he said, was in fact part of degraded forest in the sanctuary which by law cannot be claimed for private ownership.

Nak said on Monday he could not recall if Hean had reported to him about the land being bulldozed.

“I’m not sure if he had reported it to me,” he said.

Hean urged ministry specialists to use the GPS in future to indicate certain areas belonged to the sanctuary so that they could reclaim land as State property.

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