The Battambang Provincial Administration has told all 14 district governors to take measures to prevent illegal encroachment on state land, as some people are continuing to carry out construction work on state-owned land, including in national parks and waterways.

According to the letter signed by provincial deputy governor Yim Sieb last week, some local authorities had acknowledged purchase agreements for state land and had issued certificates of ownership, enabling people to build on the land.

The provincial hall told the governors to prohibit such encroachment and annul any documents that had been issued by the authorities that allowed the illegal occupation of state land.

“Any local authority that continues to issue certificates or contracts as described above will be held accountable according to the laws,” the letter said.

Samlot district governor Soeu Sameth told The Post that he had received the letter. He had also received letters from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and the Ministry of Environment about preventing encroachment on state land.

He said the provincial administration had also ordered district authorities to make copies of these instructions and disseminate them to people in the district so people understood them and could participate in preventing deforestation and encroachment.

“We will take measures to prevent all activities such as clearing and deforestation from happening further at the local level,” he said.

Koas Kralor district administration last week also gave notice to anyone who had built on state land, ordering them to dismantle any illegal structures by January 31.

“In case of non-compliance, a working group from the administration will go and dismantle them and will not be responsible for any damage,” he said.

The district administration stated that in order to maintain order, ensure quality of life, beautify the environment and ensure the safety of road users throughout the district, it plans to improve infrastructure systems including roads, streams, lakes and canals.

Pen Bonnar, local community empowerment officer for human rights group Adhoc, welcomed the measures laid out by the authorities to protect state land. He said that without timely action, the state would run out of land due to illegal encroachment.

“Now it’s time to enforce the law. Officials at all levels who have allowed encroachment on state land must be held accountable before the law. This will deter them from repeating the offence,” he said.

Government spokesman Phay Siphan told The Post on January 16 that the head of the government has ordered the suppression and prevention of encroachment and land grabbing of state land for personal interest. The government would seek to punish the perpetrators according to the law, he said.

Siphan dismissed the accusation that encroachments on state land were mostly committed by senior government officials or tycoons, saying ordinary people also committed the offences.

He encouraged civil society officials and social observers to report any illegal encroachment on state land to Prime Minister Hun Sen via his official Facebook page so legal action could be taken.