The Ministry of Interior is working with the Ministry of Environment to study land in protected areas and biodiversity preservation corridors in Battambang and Pailin provinces in an attempt to cut some portions out and hand them over to people who are already relying on that land for their livelihoods.

Interior minister Sar Kheng led a virtual inter-ministerial meeting on July 6 to discuss registering individual ownership of some of the land in the protected areas and biodiversity preservation corridors in those two provinces. The meeting was attended by environment minister Say Samal.

Environment ministry spokesman Neth Pheaktra told The Post on July 7 that they may decide to cut some parts of the land from the protected areas for people to use, with the aim of making them the protectors and guardians of nature. When there is an official decision they will be granted land ownership.

“The decision to assign some land from protected areas to people will be based on what was decided during a Council of Ministers Meeting on July 2, 2020,” he said, adding that there isn’t any details yet on how much land will be handed to the people.

Both Battambang Provincial Administration spokespman Siem Bunrith and Pailin Provincial Administration spokesman Un Bunly declined to comment on the matter.

Battambang provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc Yin Mengly applauded the ministries for taking into consideration the needs of the people who have been relying on the land.

He expected that the process will follow proper procedures and ensure that the people who really need the land get it.

“If the process is done correctly, handing over this land to poor people will improve their livelihoods. They will have enough land for cultivation and this will stop them from migrating for work abroad. But be careful of opportunistic outsiders,” he said.

He said Battambang province had also provided land to people and that it had caused problems because the poor did not really receive the land in some cases.