Dozens of hectares of state land in Mondulkiri province have been grabbed illegally, provincial Forestry Administration deputy director Saro Ratana told The Post on Sunday.
The pine farm where the land grabbing has taken place covers 225ha in Pou Hyam village in O’Raing district’s Sen Monorom commune.
Ratana said the farm has been registered in the inventory of the provincial Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries department, so the Forestry Administration has an obligation to manage and protect the land.
But with land prices soaring, he said, some opportunists have secretly planted posts and cleared the land without authorisation.
Ratana said that on Thursday, his team cooperated with the O’Raing district military unit and local authorities to inspect the area and witnessed land encroachment happening in four locations.
“During the inspection, which was conducted over a few days, we discovered four cases in the pine farm. Though we have not measured the site, we estimate that it is not less than 50ha of land,” he said.
Ratana said his team is attempting to identify those responsible in order to prepare a lawsuit for the court to take further action against them.
Sen Monorom commune chief Thvan Trel told The Post on Sunday that none of the residents of her village had grabbed land in the area, and she does not know where the perpetrators come from.
“The land that has been grabbed is very large. It is at least 3ha or more in one place, so our villagers are not capable of doing that. Still, I don’t know where the perpetrators came from either,” she said.
Some local people said the case might escalate into a new land dispute if experts and relevant authorities do not take measures to prevent the clearing and seize the land back as state property.
Pou Hyam village chief Nhang Myok said that in the past, he had seen workers planting posts around the land in the area, but he and other villagers did not realise that the posts were being planted privately and illegally.