A Siem Reap Provincial Court prosecutor has placed a man in pre-trial detention for illegally bulldozing flooded forest land.

Court spokeswoman Sat Thida said on July 4 that the case had been referred to an investigating judge, who would pursue legal action.

Police detained the suspect and seized heavy machinery on July 2 in Siem Reap town’s Sra Nge commune.

“We found Laing Than, 29, bulldozing land near Dam 78. A total of 13.91ha had been cleared. This was a flagrant crime,” the town administration said in a social media post, while calling on the public to inform them of any such crimes.

The flooded forests served as spawning grounds and were crucial to maintaining the Kingdom’s biodiversity, it added.

Siem Reap town governor Nuon Putheara said on July 4 that police had responded to complaints from residents whose rice fields were nearby. The bulldozing had affected water flow to the paddies of more than 400 families.

“He bulldozed the dam, which was designed to store water for people to cultivate dry-season rice. It was a public resource. We responded swiftly to complaints by the public,” he added.

“Since Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered stricter enforcement of forest crimes earlier this year, only two such crimes have been recorded. The first happened in June, and we built a strong case against the offenders. This was the second,” he said.