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District head’s son held over illegal state land excavation

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A joint committee in Preah Vihear province confiscated five pieces of machinery and 10 soil-carrying lorries on Friday after it was discovered that state land had been excavated illegally in Preah Khlaing commune’s Krang Dong village in Tbeng Meanchey district. ANN

District head’s son held over illegal state land excavation

A joint committee in Preah Vihear province confiscated five pieces of machinery and 10 soil-carrying lorries on Friday after it was discovered that state land had been excavated illegally in Preah Khlaing commune’s Krang Dong village in Tbeng Meanchey district.

The lorries and equipment are being held at the provincial military police headquarters.

Provincial governor Prak Sovann said specialists are questioning the owner of the machinery, a person named Chea.

Sovann said: “I am allowing specialists to take legal action. I don’t know what their decision will be since officials from the Department of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction and the provincial Cadastral Office are still questioning the owner.

“I have yet to receive further information from our specialists. However, we will take legal action for sure.”

Provincial military police commander Kang Sao Kun said on Wednesday that while Chea was held for questioning, the drivers of the confiscated tractors and lorries were released as they were only hired hands.

During questioning, Chea told police that Say Sophea owned the land which was excavated, and Sophea had hired the drivers to complete the work.

Sao Kun confirmed Chea’s claim. “The landowner’s name is Say Sophea and he is the son of Tbeng Meanchey district governor Nut Sophoan.

“The specialists are building a case file to be referred to the provincial court for further legal procedures. But I don’t know how [the governor] will decide,” Sao Kun said.

On Wednesday, Sophoan told The Post he arrived at the location in question to inspect the machinery with the provincial joint committees and found that Sophea had hired the machines to bulldoze the plantation he owned.

But workers had bulldozed beyond Sophea’s land boundary and into state-owned land without permission. Police then intervened and shut down the operation, Sophoan said.

Sophoan continued: “The machinery’s owner and the landowner have nothing to do with me. Some media outlets have broadcast negative information about me and attacked me.

“So, I would like to confirm that it has nothing to do with me. On the day of the crackdown, I went to the location because I have nothing to hide.

“The police held the drivers, the machinery’s owner [Chea], and the landowner [Sophea]. But I don’t know how many there are. The police took them for questioning.”

Sophoan said the illegally bulldozed land was indeed state-owned and had been set aside by specialists in 2003.

Preah Vihear provincial Department of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction head Sam Saroeun could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

A Wednesday report on ann.com.kh claimed that Sophoan was “unaware” of his son’s illegal activities.

The report further said the officials who led the crackdown acted on orders from provincial Deputy Governor Ung Vuthy, Sao Kun and Saroeun.

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