Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Authorities to reclaim illegally seized land inside sanctuary

Authorities to reclaim illegally seized land inside sanctuary

Officials from the Ministry of Environment and the Kampong Speu Provincial Department of Environment in late January inspect a disputed area inside the Phnom Oral Wildlife Sanctuary. Photo supplied
Officials from the Ministry of Environment and the Kampong Speu Provincial Department of Environment in late January inspect a disputed area inside the Phnom Oral Wildlife Sanctuary. Photo supplied

Authorities to reclaim illegally seized land inside sanctuary

Kampong Speu provincial authorities on Friday said they will reclaim more than 2,000 hectares of land inside the Phnom Oral Wildlife Sanctuary, though six officials interrogated earlier this month for allegedly grabbing the land will only be “educated”.

Oral district deputy police chiefs Prak Moul and Morm An, Tasal Commune Chief Dul Sokhum, Doung Village Chief Orn Kong, Trapang Thmea Village Chief Y Doem and Kammpes Village Chief Sorn Vong were questioned earlier this month by Chheun Sothun, director of the provincial Environment Department, over the alleged illegal activity.

According to the summons, they were questioned over the “clearing, logging, burning and bulldozing [of] forest land for private ownership”.

Chea Hean, director of the Natural Resources and Wildlife Preservation Organization in Kampong Speu, told The Post previously that in 2014 and 2015 officials colluded to recruit some 200 families – paying them $250 to $300 each – to occupy the land, with authorities issuing ownership documents.

Once the families had obtained those documents, they then allegedly sold the land on to brokers, with some of the money going back to the officials behind the scheme.

A team was deployed to investigate in late January on the orders of provincial Governor Vei Samnang, who on Friday issued a letter to authorities asking them to revoke land ownership in the area immediately.

Samnang said people who claim to have ownership of the land have 30 days to file complaints about the seizure.

“Our target focuses on finding the people who damaged the forest and [for them to] pay for the damage,” he said. “If they show up, it’s better. We know who they are.”

Regarding the six officials who were questioned, Samnang referred questions to Sothun, with the Environment Department.

He said his office will make the seizure of the land known to residents in the area by installing billboards saying that it is under the department’s management. He added that a reforestation plan will also be carried out.

Officials he questioned earlier this month over their alleged involvement in the case would only be “educated”. He declined to comment on what other action would be taken against them, and denied accusations environmental officials were also involved in the scheme.

“They know this is the land inside the wildlife sanctuary,” he said.

“They [were] educated.”

According to Hean, such crimes cannot occur without the systematic involvement of officials from the local to the provincial level, including environmental officials.

MOST VIEWED

  • PM imposes nationwide Covid restrictions, curfew over Delta scare

    Prime Minister Hun Sen late on July 28 instructed the municipal and provincial authorities nationwide to strictly enforce Covid-19 measures including curfew for two weeks from July 29 midnight through August 12 to stem the new coronavirus Delta variant. The instruction came shortly after he issued a directive

  • Two luxury hotels latest quarantine options for inbound travellers

    The Inter-Ministerial Committee to Combat Covid-19 has designated two luxury hotels as alternative quarantine options for travellers who wish to enter Cambodia through Phnom Penh International Airport – Sokha Phnom Penh Hotel & Residence and the Courtyard by Marriott Phnom Penh. In a notice detailing guidelines issued

  • Provinces on Thai borders put in lockdown amid Delta fears

    The government has decided to place several border provinces in lockdown for two weeks in a bid to prevent the new coronavirus Delta variant spreading further into community. According a directive signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen late on July 28, the provinces include Koh Kong,

  • Visa A holders get to quarantine at Himawari Hotel

    The Ministry of Health has permitted foreign diplomats, UN and International NGO officials to undergo quarantine at Himawari Hotel in the capital in case they do not have a separate place suitable for this purpose, but the government would not be responsible for the expenses.

  • Jabs for kids bring hope for school reopenings

    Cambodia is tentatively planning to reopen schools – at least at the secondary level – when the vaccination of children aged 12-17 is completed, even though daily transmissions and deaths in other age groups remain high. Schools across the country have been suspended since March 20, one month

  • China denies Mekong hacking

    As the US and its allies joined hands last week to expose what they allege to be China’s Ministry of State Security’s malicious cyber activities around the world, the attention also turned to Cambodia with the US Department of Justice claiming that four