Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Bunong seek assistance over suspected land grabs

Bunong seek assistance over suspected land grabs

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Members of the indigenous community met with Mondulkiri authorities to probe several land plots located within the Phnom Nam Lear Wildlife Sanctuary that they suspect have been grabbed for private ownership. Supplied

Bunong seek assistance over suspected land grabs

The Bunong ethnic community in Mondulkiri province’s Bou Sra commune on Friday sought Pich Chreada district hall’s assistance to probe several land plots located within the Phnom Nam Lear Wildlife Sanctuary that they suspect have been grabbed for private ownership.

However, officials said that should the private entities hold valid land titles, their ownership must be recognised under the law.

Forest activist Kroeung Tola told The Post on Monday: “The Bunong ethnic community conducted its own investigation and found five to six land titles, one of which measured 5ha. They are conducting further investigations.

“We estimate that around 1,000-2,000ha in the Phnom Nam Lear Wildlife Sanctuary has been grabbed. But this land was measured by a student group and recognised as forest land in 2013 by then provincial Department of Land Management director Chhim Kan.

“The titles were issued in 2012 but the land was not cleared. Trees have grown on the land, which makes it forest land.”

Tola said the owners of the land titles are officials of the commune and district administrations, and each of them possesses up to 5-6ha registered under the name of their family members.

“As I said, sometimes they put the names of their children, wives and mothers-in-law on the documents to skirt around legalities.

“Some of them own up to 30-40ha. I wonder why cadastral officials still issued titles when they already knew that it was forest land.

“If there was an announcement posted at the commune hall before the issuance of the titles, the community would have known and certainly protested. But maybe they failed to post the notice,” he said.

On Friday, about 20 members of the indigenous community who came to protest at the district hall met with deputy district governor Vanna Mab who was in charge of land title issuance.

Mab, said Tola, promised that he will expend full effort to investigate the land titles within his capacity.

Provincial Department of Environment director Keo Sopheak said the measurement of land and issuance of titles mean that the plots are legally recognised as private land.

This, he said, deems the intervention request by the indigenous community to be beyond the authority of the department.

“The lands had already been privatised and a sub-decree had been issued to cut those land plots out of the wildlife sanctuary,” he said.

Rights group Adhoc provincial coordinator Eang Mengly said the law stipulates that State land can be privatised as long as it is farmed and is not covered by forest.

“If a land title has already been issued but the land is covered by forest, then it could be seized and converted to State land,” he said.

Phnom Nam Lear Wildlife Sanctuary director Vuth Sarom said the land titles were issued before there even was a director for the sanctuary.

“The student group was tasked to only measure forest land that had been cleared. Even if the land plots have not been farmed for almost 10 years and have been covered by forest, if they have land titles for the plots, we cannot do anything about it,” he said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Omicron patients can stay home: PM

    The Ministry of Health has issued a directive on the treatment of people who have tested positive for the highly transmissible Omicron coronavirus variant, following a suggestion from Prime Minister Hun Sen on the night of January 21. The directive permits home quarantine for those who

  • The effects of the USD interest rate hike on Cambodian economy

    Experts weigh in on the effect of a potential interest rate expansion by the US Federal Reserve on a highly dollarised Cambodia Anticipation of the US Federal Reserve’s interest rate hike in March is putting developing economies on edge, a recent blog post by

  • Cambodia’s first ever anime festival kicks off Jan 22 at capital’s F3 centre

    Phnom Penh's first ever Anime Festival will bring together fans, artists, shops and other local businesses with ties to the Japanese animation style for cosplay competitions, online games, pop-up shops and more on January 22, with Friends Futures Factory (F3) hosting. F3 is a project that

  • Demining rat ‘hero’ Magawa dead at 8

    A landmine-hunting rat that was awarded a gold medal for heroism for clearing ordnance from the Cambodian countryside has died, his charity said on January 11. Magawa, a giant African pouched rat originally from Tanzania, helped clear mines from about 225,000sqm of land – the equivalent of 42

  • Hun Sen gets 4th Covid shot, urges compatriots to follow

    Prime Minister Hun Sen and his wife Bun Rany on January 14 received their fourth dose of Covid-19 vaccine and called on compatriots to follow suit as the Omicron coronavirus variant continues to spread in the community. This marks the launch of Cambodia's fourth-dose vaccination campaign,

  • Fourth dose Covid booster drive jabs 43K in two days

    In the first two days of the fourth-dose Covid-19 vaccination campaign, more than 43,000 people volunteered to get the jabs, while over 4.6 million people have received a third shot. Health ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine said that fourth-dose vaccinations, which began on January 14 exclusively with the Pfizer