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Conservation area residents registered for land requests

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Environment ministry spokesman Neth Pheaktra during a press conference on Thursday. Heng Chivoan

Conservation area residents registered for land requests

The provinces of Koh Kong, Kep and Oddar Meanchey have completed a census identifying long-time residents of areas designated as protected natural land and conservation areas. This will enable them to apply for land allocation pursuant to an order given by Prime Minister Hun Sen on July 3, 2020, a senior official from the Ministry of Environment said.

Environment ministry spokesman Neth Pheaktra said several ministries collaborated with the provincial administrations to study and compile data about the populations who have lived on the land long-term and rely on it for their livelihoods.

He said the ministry had examined the provincial administrations’ proposals to facilitate the demarcation of land boundaries in natural protected areas to allocate land to these people.

Hun Sen also recommended that 10 per cent of the land be set aside for community use and infrastructure in the allocation areas.

Kep provincial deputy governor Vao Sokha said on September 27 that authorities had submitted a request to demarcate residential areas for the community of people who have relied on land inside the Kep National Park for their livelihoods.

“We submitted the proposal a long time ago but have not seen a response. Overall, our proposal is in compliance with [Hun Sen’s] instructions to find a way to accommodate the people who had lived in the National Park area or protected areas for many years,” he said.

In their proposal, the provincial hall requests land allocations for the people who have been living in various locations in parts of Kep town that lie within the national park boundaries.

Specifically, the letter requests the allocation of 275 plots of land equal to roughly 176ha for people residing in Kep commune’s Kep village and Prey Thom commune’s Thmey village.

In Koh Kong province, deputy governor Sok Sothy said more than 90 per cent of the land in Koh Kong was covered by protected natural area status and to date more than 150,000ha have been allocated to over 30,000 families, with each receiving 3ha to 5ha.

In Oddar Meanchey province, deputy governor Dy Rado said authorities had submitted a letter to the environment ministry requesting land allocations after completing the census. Rado could not recall the exact amount of land or number of people, saying the complete data was in the hands of the working group assigned to the task.

“We submitted the request to the environment ministry early in 2021. At this time, I do not have the data on land allocation on hand,” he said.

He added that after Hun Sen’s order to allocate land was made public, his administration had seen attempts by people to secretly encroach on the forest land in order to claim they were long-term residents there. He said authorities were now compiling evidence for the environment ministry regarding this activity.

Hun Sen previously warned opportunists against occupying new land to claim it for allocation in this manner.

Environment ministry spokesman Pheaktra cited data from the Preah Monivong Bokor National Park for July 3, 2020, to July 31 of this year, indicating there were 201 cases of illegal encroachment on 619ha of the park’s land in that period.

“For all cases of encroachment, we will file complaints to the court and we have been cooperating with the provincial administrations to confiscate land that had been illegally occupied,” he said.

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