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Families protest Srepok forest grab

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Workers clear forest in the Srepok Wildlife Sanctuary. facebook

Families protest Srepok forest grab

Some 100 families from Pichreada district’s Pu Chrey commune in Mondulkiri province said a private company continues to clear forest in the Srepok Wildlife Sanctuary even after the authority made the firm sign a contract promising to stop its activities.

A representative of the Pu Chrey Protected Area Community who wished to remain anonymous claimed the Heang Ly Company had pulled out stumps and damaged 1,063 trees on forest land adjacent to the community in the commune’s Pu Tang village.

He claimed it was done without permission from relevant authorities and that the clearing violated the rights of his ethnic community who lived nearby.

“The company illegally cleared the forest without permission from the relevant institutions. It’s a protected area. We’ve noticed that once authorities inspected the site, they halted their activities."

“But then they resumed their activities after the authorities left. I think if there are no tough measures, it will continue unabated,” he said.

According to a complaint the Pu Chrey Protected Area Community filed with the Mondulkiri provincial governor on June 29, Heang Ly had used excavators to clear the forest land since before the July 29 national elections.

The complaint said Heang Ly had also built an office and a warehouse that doubles as a parking lot for the excavators on the land.

Provincial environment department director Keo Sopheak said on Monday that after receiving the complaint from the Pu Chrey community, he made the company sign a contract promising to stop its activities pending formal permission from the authority.

Sopheak said the office and warehouse in question are actually located on the company’s land and that the firm had cleared the forest to build a road and a stone mill.

“The company just worked on the old site. It has not cleared the community’s forest land,” he said.

Sopheak said the Ministry of Environment had already inspected the area twice and instructed the company not to clear land beyond its boundary.

Adhoc provincial coordinator Ieng Mengly said he was not aware of the case. “I haven’t monitored this case because I’ve been occupied in other districts. Let me look into it first,” he said.

Heang Ly representatives could not be reached for comment on Monday.

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