A working group from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has been working throughout January to get tough on Mondulkiri forest crimes. They have seized almost 7,000ha of occupied land and removed almost 70km of illegal fencing.
According to a report seen by The Post on February 3, the working group was implementing a directive issued by the Council of Ministers and the instructions of agriculture minister Veng Sakhon.
They carried out the work in cooperation with the provincial administration in coordination with the provincial court prosecutor to stop encroachment and clear fences erected by intruders on four pine plantations – two belonging to private firms Wujisan and Hour Ling, both of which have received economic land concessions, and two on state-owned plantations.
The working group said that from January 5-27, they had investigated and reappropriated 6,779ha of pine plantations in 18 locations. The group also removed 64,192m of fencing from the locations.
They demolished ninie zinc-roofed steel mills, 20 houses and a cow shed and seized 1.5 cubic metres of sawn rosewood timber and seven pieces of heavy machinery.
The working group said they had summonsed those involved in the clearing and fencing of the sites for clarification on their involvement, and were continuing to search for the masterminds behind the operations, in order to send them to court.
The group will continue to search for other locations, and has planted boundary posts and erected signs marking the seized locations, to prevent the offenders from re-occupying the land.
Adhoc senior officer Pen Bunnar on February 2 applauded efforts to reclaim state land and take legal action, but noted that as of February 2 no arrests had been made for the encroachment.
“Authorities have just questioned the workers who cleared the land. We have yet to hear that any [masterminds] have been charged and sent to court,” he said.
Bunnar said that as far as he knew, despite the establishment of a first and second commission to crack down on forestry crimes in Mondulkiri, criminals whose names had been referred to court had never been convicted or detained.
Mondulkiri deputy governor Cheak Mengheang said the search for those behind the illegal operations had to be conducted according to legal guidelines. Without evidence, prosecution would be futile, he added.