The Pailin provincial environment department detained a man who allegedly cleared 23ha without a permit at Stung Kach commune in Sala Krao district, the provincial deputy prosecutor Thol Kimhoeng said on Thursday
The suspect, a truck and an excavator were held in the Tuesday crackdown carried out by a joint task force led by Sala Krao district governor Sam Saret, Kimhoeng said.
The landowners possess a legitimate land title, he said, but they did not have permission from the relevant authorities to clear their land.
“The owners must ask permission from the local authorities even if they have a land title. They didn’t clear a protected forest, but the authorities required that the landowners seek permission before clearing the land,” Kimhoeng said.
The case was forwarded to the provincial environment department, he added, by which the landowners would be fined before the authorities return the confiscated heavy vehicles.
Kem Sokha, director of the province’s environment department, could not be reached for comment.
Local media reported that Sokha had previously mentioned the “lack of authorisation to clear the land”, which led to the arrest of a suspect and the seizure of a truck and an excavator.
A district police officer who wished to be anonymous told The Post on Thursday that the suspect had informed the police that the land belongs to Heng Hak Mong who rented the heavy vehicles to clear the land to build residential buildings.
An attempt to reach Hak Mong for comments on Thursday was unsuccessful.
The Post obtained a November 15 letter from Pailin administration which stipulates that “the 236,946sqm land, registered under land title number 001216, 002518 and 000951, located at Phsar Prom Choeung village, Stung Kach commune, Sala Krao district, Pailin province, and owned by Heng Hak Mong and Chhay Sivan retains no dispute.”
Construction of a resort, casino, five-star hotel and six-star hotel are permitted on the land, it added.
Meanwhile, an Environment Ministry statement dated October 17 read that “upon inspection, a joint task force between the Ministry of Environment, Pailin authorities and the provincial environment department found that the land is not located in a protected area.
“It is private land whereby the owner is to be allowed to build residential properties, including flats, villas and hotels, as well as other types of development.”
The statement also showed that the ministry had suggested that the clearing process would abide by the master plan which had been submitted to the Environment Ministry to ensure the preservation of the nature surrounding it.