Kampot provincial governor Cheav Tay has ordered the authorities to search for whoever illegally filled in a creek at Kbal Romeas and hold them accountable under the law.
He also warned local authorities that they would be held accountable if they allowed state land to be grabbed within their jurisdiction.
Tay on Wednesday inspected the creek, near National Road 33 in Trapaing Thom village, in Teuk Chhou district’s Chum Kriel commune, which had been filled with soil. He ordered technical officials to use machinery to excavate the earth.
“When we saw that the creek had been filled in, we had it excavated. We are now attempting to find whoever did it and bring them to justice. We cannot let such state property be violated,” he told The Post.
Tay instructed all municipal, district and commune authorities to uphold the law and protect what belonged to the state.
“They must not allow any violations to happen. If they allow it, the local authorities must be held responsible according to the law,” he said.
So Bun Thoeurn, the deputy police chief of Kampot province’s Chhouk district, said on Thursday after a field visit that soil had been illegally dumped on 40m to 50m of Kbal Roemas forest land, while seven to eight metres of the old canal near the national road had been completely been filled-in.
“I took charge of the machinery and about 16 truckloads of soil were excavated. But then I received an order from the top leadership to suspend the work, so we did.
“I don’t know why there was an order to stop. I am a rank-and-file official, I follow the orders of the top leadership. I don’t know anything else,” he said.
Bun Thoeurn was unable to confirm the identity of the individuals who filled in the land. However, he said they were not Kampot residents but lived in Phnom Penh.
Ub Sovanchanthorn, Kampot and Kep provincial investigator at human rights organisation Licadho, said those who dared to grab the land may be backed by powerful individuals.
He expressed concern that excavating the earth might be ineffective if cases were not followed up, because the land would just be filled in again.
“Grabbing natural resources is already against the law. Those people know grabbing state land is illegal but still do it, so we urge the relevant authorities and especially the courts to enforce the law.
“We shouldn’t let those individuals become bad examples for others because land grabs affect mangrove forests as well as other natural resources,” Sovanchanthorn said.