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Flooded forest illegally cleared in Kampong Chhnang

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A view of paddy fields in Kampong Chhnang province. Authorities there say they are probing flooded land that was illegally cleared. Photo supplied

Flooded forest illegally cleared in Kampong Chhnang

The Kampong Chhnang provincial department of agriculture, forestry and fishery is working to identify suspects who had mobilised tractors to illegally clear flooded forest in Toek Phos district’s O’krabey Ngob and O’Klong in Chieb communes.

Department director Ngin Hun told The Post on Monday that the tractors were impounded after the suspects fled the scene. “At least 10ha of flooded forest in the areas have been cleared illegally.

“The suspects may have received a tip-off about the raid. They had escaped before we arrived, leaving their vehicles behind. We’re working to bring the perpetrators to justice,” he said.

However, villagers allege that the clearing of flooded forest in the area had been made possible by some local authority officials, including a village chief.

Keo Hong, 38, from Chieb commune’s Chieb village, claimed that traders and local authorities colluded to clear dozens of hectares of flooded forests in O’Krabey Ngob and O’Klong communes. They had even lured some villagers to join hands with them.

“It’s not outsiders who convinced villagers to clear the flooded forests, but the Khtum Koh village chief and some Akphivoat commune officials.

“They [village chief and commune officials] warned villagers against telling anyone. They gave $100 to each villager who was willing to clear the flooded forest,” Hong claimed.

He said the money was provided by six unidentified middlemen from Kampong Chhnang province who are also the owners of the tractors.