The Ministry of Environment has warned the public about scammers who were deceiving people by claiming they legally owned land in protected areas and providing them with fake ownership deeds in bogus land sales when it isn’t possible for anyone to privately own protected land.

Ministry secretary of state Neth Pheaktra said on November 19 that environmental officials in Kampot province had been alerted to the activities of criminals who were using Facebook accounts to sell plots of land in the Preah Monivong Bokor National Park in Anlong Kmeng Leng Area of Techo Aphivath commune in Kampot province’s Chhouk district on social media.

He added that 1,800ha of protected land was put up for sale, but the land is within the park and some ill-intentioned people had illegally cleared and taken over some plots of land to sell them and their cases were being investigated for prosecution in court.

He continued that environmental officials had monitored and taken measures against the Facebook account of “NL Real Estate Cambodia”. They had marked out 1,800ha of protected land on a map and taken some pictures to advertise its sale. The officials made an inquiry with the real estate agent about the activity and they stated that a person named Sok Mab was the representative of the land owner.

The officials said that Sok Mab is one of two suspects whom the officials are sending to court over their involvement in illegally clearing forest land in Anlong Kmeng Leng village along with Lao Ann, who is his father.

Their cases are now in the hands of the Kampot provincial court.

The officials from the provincial environmental department added that, with new evidence and witnesses that has come in, the department would submit more evidence to the court to take action against the criminal conspirators.

Pheaktra also called on those who were tricked by them to buy the land in the area to demand their money back or file a lawsuit for it in court because the location is in the Bokor National Park.

“No one has a right to buy or sell land in protected areas and biodiversity corridors in any province. We ask that people take more precautions to avoid getting cheated in fraudulent land deals,” he said.

He stated that these fake land brokers own no real land and have no legal occupation, but ill-intentioned people had encouraged others to buy the forest land from criminals who had falsified documents to take over land that belongs to the public.

He continued that some of the buyers were also ill-intentioned because they thought they had found a win-win strategy and they figured that if they win their case, they get the land and if they lose their case they would get paid by the government because they had hired people to protest and demand land concessions.