Natural Resource and Wildlife Preservation Organisation director Chea Hean requested Kampong Speu provincial governor Vei Samnang to take back 243ha of land in Phnom Oral Wildlife Sanctuary as state property.
Hean claimed that local authorities colluded with a village representative to grab the land for sale.
The letter to Samnang dated December 9, which was accepted by the provincial hall on Friday, complained to the governor about issuing land titles to El Sara, a representative of 25 families who allegedly grabbed 243ha of land in the protected area.
They prepared the land for sale for $1,900 per hectare, causing a wildlife sanctuary to lose part of its land, which was gazetted by a 1993 royal decree.
“[I] asked the governor to investigate and annul any letters sent to the ministries of Environment and Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction or the cabinet [through the governor] to help obtain the land in Doung village, Oral district's Tasal commune and revoke it for state property,” wrote Hean in the letter.
Hean told The Post on Sunday that according to the law, no one can be authorised to grab land in a wildlife sanctuary. But, in this case, the people and village and commune authorities [allegedly] colluded with help from environment and land officials to grab land for sale.
"They persuaded the people to thumbprint documents to possess the land so that the government would cut it for them on the grounds that it is their plantation.
"The decision to cut the land came about because the officials did not know that it was located inside the wildlife sanctuary as they only saw the documents with thumbprints sealed by the village, commune, district and provincial authorities," he claimed.
“First, they planned to issue land titles for the villagers, and then transfer ownership from them to others. They could directly grab the land, but used the people to get land ownership documents to send it to Prime Minister Hun Sen,” he claimed.
According to a letter on the land trade, it was sold to a broker for $1,900 per hectare on February 28. Now the broker is attempting to sell the land for $3,500 per hectare when he gets the land titles from the people, Hean claimed.
“Next week, authorities will issue the land titles for them and anyone who disagrees can file a complaint. So, as an NGO director [and to protect the land], I wrote [to the governor] to revoke it,” he said.
Provincial Department of Environment director Em Sokun denied the allegations, saying that Hean had just made accusations without evidence, affecting other people's rights.
“There is no cutting of land in the wildlife sanctuary for the people. It’s just defamation … no one has the right to grab state land for sale,” he stressed.
Samnang said he had not yet seen the letter from Hean, but that any attempt to possess land in a wildlife sanctuary is not permitted.
“I haven’t read the complaint letter yet, so I don’t know what to say [about the case],” Samnang said.
Hean also said he would file another letter to the provincial court to seek legal action against people who had colluded to grab the land.