The Kampot provincial Forestry Administration has requested the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to recognise the establishment and management of three new forest communities in the province.
A report issued by the Forestry Administration said the new communities are Phnom Reap forest community in Teuk Chhou district’s Prey Thnong commune, Noray forest community in Chhouk district’s Noray commune and Chruos Koki Deurk forest community in Dang Tong district’s Sre Chea Khang Choeung commune.
Provincial Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries director Chan Rith told The Post on Wednesday that the establishment and management of the communities would raise the living standards of locals because they would allow them to collect natural resources and take part in the preservation of the areas.
The project will also encourage investments which will help sustain the communities and create jobs, Rith said.
He said: “Nowadays, we seem to pin our hopes only on the communities. Everything [state land] that remains today has been grabbed and occupied day by day, even though the already established communities were announced by the ministry.
“The ministry also released land titles that overlap each other. So, the Forestry Administration demands coordination and a halt to onsite developments in which the overlapping titles were released.”
He said locals in the area have been preserving the forests without taking any resources from them.
“The establishment and the management of the forest community areas are to preserve the area. In any areas when the communities work well, we have always encouraged them to do so.
“We don’t have enough forces to preserve our forests. But when the communities are locals, they can preserve the natural wealth in their localities themselves instead of the local authorities and the government,” he said.
The report further said that the request had been already approved by the Forestry Administration director at the ministry level.
The administration’s report said that from March 12-25, a working group from the forest community office collaborated with the Forestry Administration, local authorities, the forest management committee, forest community members and stakeholders to check and verify the new forest community areas.
Ministry spokesperson Chan Heng said on Wednesday an official report had not been sent to the ministry as yet.
But he confirmed that the working group had checked the areas, and said the Forestry Administration director is now on the case.
“Overall, the establishment and the management of the forest community areas serves to preserve them. If the areas are encroached on after we announce them as official community areas, the ministry will take legal action against offenders,” said Heng.
Provincial Forestry Administration chief Chuon Sara could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
Rights group Adhoc provincial coordinator Yun Phally said historically, the forest community areas on the mountainside and coastal areas of Kampot province have been invaded by powerful individuals hoping to own the land themselves.
“In the past, land in the mountainside areas was once grabbed by powerful individuals, according to the community. We’ve already seen the Kampot mountains bulldozed completely,” he said.