The Battambang Provincial Administration has been exploring the possibility of reallocating more than 900ha of forest land in Samlot district into social land concessions for poor people and retired soldiers.

Deputy provincial governor Soeum Bunrith told The Post on March 29 that the provincial administration was surveying land under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Environment in Phnom Samkos Wildlife Sanctuary in Samlot.

Bunrith said the intention was to convert it into social land concessions based on guidelines from the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction.

According to Bunrith, the provincial administration is evaluating the condition of the 900ha and whether it is arable and has water sources, which are the basic needs for those who would apply for it.

When the study is finished, the results would be submitted to relevant authorities with the environment and land management ministries as facilitators. The result would then be submitted to the head of the government for a final decision on allocation.

“Identifying poor people and retired soldiers is not the provincial authorities’ responsibility. The land management ministry determines who gets the land. The administration is just looking for plots, while the next procedure rest with the relevant ministries,” he said.

Heng Sayhong, provincial coordinator for rights group Licadho, said providing social land concessions to the needy was good work as some poor people do not have enough land to provide for family members who start new families.

“Government or provincial authorities should find state land to convert it into social concession land. It’s the best way to provide land to those in need or the poor,” Sayhong said.

He said the province still has a lot of unoccupied land in Samlot and other districts which could be transferred into social concession land.

“Some state land in this province has no forest, so we should convert it into social concession land and give them to people in need, and the best way is to do it is with transparency,” he said.

According to the environment ministry’s report, Phnom Samkos Wildlife Sanctuary has 335,750ha spanning Battambang province’s Samlot district and areas in Pursat and Koh Kong provinces.