Koh Kong provincial authorities said on Sunday that illegal forestry and wildlife trafficking crimes have decreased considerably at the Peam Krasop Wildlife Sanctuary, although authorities are still investigating cases of encroachment on state land at the site.
Provincial environment department director Mam Phala told The Post on Sunday that the authorities had announced the potential annulment of unlawful land titles after finding unauthorised demarcation posts on public forest land in the sanctuary.
Phala said villagers living in Peam Krasop commune¸ which is located within the sanctuary and spans Mondul Seima district and the provincial town, are not entitled to land titles. But, they can live on and cultivate the land on a family scale.
“Officials are reviewing legal status of forest land cleared by some individuals who claim to have land titles. There has been no development in the sanctuary yet. We are determining if the land titles are legally valid."
“But even if they are, we will still follow legal procedures by requesting the Ministry of Environment and relevant institutions to revoke the titles and register the land as state public property,” he said.
Phala declined to provide details of the land size and exact location, citing ongoing investigations.
Adhoc provincial coordinator Mean Prom Mony on Sunday urged authorities to issue land titles to local communities.
“Some villagers have lived in and relied on the sanctuary for a long time. Local authorities have also acknowledged this, but have not issued them with land titles. The [provincial] authority should consider securing their livelihood,” he said.
Peam Krasop commune chief Neang Kun told The Post on Sunday that there are currently 352 families residing in the commune. She said the community has been divided into groups and have worked with the relevant authorities to protect natural resources in the sanctuary.
“Villagers in Peam Krasop commune don’t have private land titles, but they have communal land measuring 3,165ha in total."
“Their communal land is recognised by the ministry and this allows them to reside, protect, preserve, and harvest forestry products in the sanctuary. So they wouldn't be affected [by land title revocation],” she said.