Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Four in Koh Kong, Kampong Thom held for clearing protected forest

Four in Koh Kong, Kampong Thom held for clearing protected forest

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Three of four men accused of using bulldozers between 2016 and this year to clear forest land in the Chaom Mrech community natural protected area in Kampong Thom province’s Prasat Balang district have been arrested. FRESH NEWS

Four in Koh Kong, Kampong Thom held for clearing protected forest

In separate community protected areas in Koh Kong and Kampong Thom provinces last week, four people were detained for illegally clearing forests to occupy them.

A warrant issued by Kampong Thom provincial court Investigating Judge Seng Bunna and obtained by The Post on Monday ordered security forces to bring three charged people to be provisionally detained at Kampong Thom prison.

The warrant said one of the three suspects was a village chief. He and two accomplices were accused of using bulldozers between 2016 and this year to clear forest land in the Chaom Mrech community natural protected area, in Prasat Balang district’s Sala Visay commune, for their personal use.

They were charged under Article 62 of the Law on Natural Protected Areas, the warrant said.

It said the suspects were a 67-year-old village chief, the 42-year-old head of Chaom Mrech community natural protected area and a 33-year-old accomplice. All three were residents of Prasat Balang district’s Sala Visay commune.

Provincial Department of Environment spokesman Tob Kakada said as custodians of the Chaom Mrech community land, instead of helping to protect it, they instead colluded to grab and sell it to residents from other provinces.

He said 180 residents representing hundreds of families had sued the suspects for clearing some 30ha of community land.

In a separate case, the Koh Kong provincial Department of Environment collaborated with Military Police and Wildlife Alliance forces to crack down on natural resource crimes on Sunday.

During the operation, a man was arrested for allegedly clearing forest land with a bulldozer in Sre Ambel district’s Dang Peng commune to bring under his ownership.

Koh Kong provincial Department of Environment director Morn Phalla could not be reached for comment on Monday.

But a provincial Department of Environment press release dated Sunday and obtained by The Post on Monday said the suspect’s wife had asked for 10ha of land to be set aside.

It said the suspect depended on 4ha for his livelihood and had built a house to live in without being prevented from doing so by the authorities or environmental officials.

Another 6ha was on protected land that environmental officials and Wildlife Alliance forces had made clear should not be cleared, the press release said, but the suspect began to clear it anyway.

An environmental official said the suspect had contravened the first section of Article 62 of the Law on Natural Protected Areas.

He said the law required the Department of Environment to gather a case to be presented to the provincial court prosecutor.

Soeng Sen Karuna, the senior investigator at rights group Adhoc, said enforcing the law against ordinary people was only a small part of tackling the problem. “Legal action must be taken fairly against the rich and poor.

“In the past, we’ve seen fewer Oknhas [tycoons] arrested for encroaching on land. But when it comes to the poor, we’ve seen many,” he claimed.

MOST VIEWED

  • Cambodia armed with money laundering laws

    Money laundering will now carry a penalty of up to five years in prison while those convicted of financing terrorists will be jailed for up to 20 years, according to new laws promulgated by King Norodom Sihamoni and seen by The Post on Thursday. Comprising nine

  • Schools to be reopened in ‘three stages’

    With guidance from Prime Minister Hun Sen, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, is in the process of reopening schools in three stages. But no timeline has been set, ministry spokesperson Ros Soveacha said on Thursday. Soveacha said the first stage will be to

  • Thai border crossings eased

    The Cambodian Embassy in Thailand said in an announcement on Wednesday that Thailand’s government has allowed certain passengers from several countries to enter its borders. The visitors must go back to their country immediately after their duties in Thailand are fulfilled, the embassy said.

  • Gov’t says tourism recovers slightly despite pandemic

    The Ministry of Tourism and the Phnom Penh municipal administration have recognised 33 tourism businesses in the capital which have consistently implemented safety measures for tourists and adhered to the code of conduct issued by the ministry. Recently, the ministry announced that tourism businesses had to

  • Mull ASEAN border opening, PM urges

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has requested that ASEAN launch a scenario for gradually reopening cross-border travel and trade between countries in the region. He said ASEAN has had more success combating Covid-19 compared to other regions. The prime minister’s request was made at the

  • Ministry reports 11 new Covid-19 cases, reiterates vigilance

    Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng has urged people to continue practising virus prevention techniques after 11 people tested positive for Covid-19 within two days after arriving in the Kingdom. Speaking on Sunday, Bun Heng stressed the importance of washing hands, wearing masks or scarves when

  • Koh Rong land ‘belongs to firm’

    Preah Sihanouk Provincial Administration spokesperson Kheang Phearum told The Post on Sunday that the 35ha being bulldozed by Royal Group Co Ltd in Koh Rong belongs to it after it was leased to it for 99 years by the government in 2008. Phearum said the land does

  • Nine on Indonesia flight Covid-19 positive

    The Ministry of Health on Saturday confirmed nine more imported cases of Covid-19. The nine ‒ eight Cambodians and one Indonesian, aged 22 to 26 ‒ arrived in Cambodia on Thursday via a direct flight from Indonesia and are receiving treatment at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hostipal in Phnom Penh.

  • Kingdom’s financial sector healthy

    Cambodia's financial sector remains on a sustainable growth path despite the Covid-19 pandemic squeezing crucial industries, National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) governor Chea Chanto said. Tourism, garments and footwear have borne the brunt of the Covid-19 impact, he said, whereas the financial and agriculture sectors

  • Vietnam told to remove border tents

    Kandal provincial governor Kong Sophoan has ordered local authorities to prohibit the construction of buildings in areas bordering Cambodia and to report any irregularities immediately. Recently, Vietnamese officials removed another seven tents from the border area with Cambodia. His remarks were made on Wednesday afternoon