Battambang provincial officials said land encroachment still occurred on thousands of hectares of flooded forest land bordering Tonle Sap Lake, and authorities lacked the resources to protect these areas.

Deputy provincial governor Soeum Bunrith told The Post on May 31 that in the last two years, the number of encroachment cases has increased, is more aggressive, and is occurring in three areas in the province.

Bunrith stated that in these areas included the districts of Moung Russey, Ek Phnom, Sangke and Thma Koulof. The government prohibits encroachment, but unscrupulous people have occupied the state land.

“The provincial administration has measures in place to tackle encroachment on flooded forest land, along with other infringements concerning land and water reclamation,” Burith said.

However, authorities have noticed that unlike before when wealthy people were behind the encroachments, it is now another type of person.

“This new movement reveals that land is scarce for ordinary people. It is a different picture than before,” Bunrith said.

According to Bunrith, the provincial administration has referred suspects to the provincial court for processing. There have been six cases this year of land encroachment.

Bunrith said that encroachment was not only by residents of the province, but also people from neighbournig provinces, such as Siem Reap and Banteay Meanchey.

He added that it is impossible to prevent encroachment by ourselves; cooperation is required between provinces and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries for any prevention to be effective and successful.

During a meeting with senior officials of the agriculture ministry on strengthening the prevention and suppression of encroachment on state land in the province on May 27, provincial governor Nguon Ratanak said that the province has cracked down on encroachment on state land, especially flooded forest land.

According to Ratanak, the provincial administration has also set up a standby unit to identify perpetrators and has already put together cases to send to court.

“The provincial administration also faces challenges due to the location of flooded forests and fishing grounds and their size. The number of officials is few and lacks resources for effective prevention,” he said.

Yin Mengly, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said that regarding encroachment on land in these areas, it is not possible for ordinary people to do it. It’s powerful and rich people who the perpetrators and use machinery to clear the land.

According to a provincial administration report, there are four districts in the three areas of Tonle Sap Lake: Moung Russey, Ek Phnom, Sangke and Thma Koulof. The area of land damaged by encroachment in Moung Russey district is 1,977ha; 6,425ha in Sangke district; 1,938ha in Ek Phnom district; and 651ha in Thma Koul district. A total of 10,992ha.