Environment officials in Kampong Chhnang province are searching for the owner of machinery used to illegally clear forest land in Kdol village in Teuk Phos district’s Kdol Sen Chey commune after confiscating a machine on June 8, which will be used as evidence by the environmental office in Oral Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary.
Provincial environment department director Men Phalla said on June 9 that the provincial environmental task force had not yet identified the offender, but evidence included three machines and more than 70ha of cleared forest land.
“The case is still under investigation and no action has been taken yet,” he said. As for the evidence, we will investigate it and find the owner.”
“Of the three machineries, only one was removed because the other two were damaged and could not be moved,” Phalla added.
Teuk Phos district governor Saut Sang said on June 9 that machinery was seized at the site, but during the raid the district unified command committee only provided support.
However, Sang said a group of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s youth volunteers had already measured the land and issued titles in the area, but there is some land that has not been measured.
He said in this case, land had been cleared in the past and that he had sent a joint force to take action.
“During the previous measure, I checked that they had a land title,” Sang said. “We also advised them to apply for a clearing permit. The law states that even if they have a title, they must also have a clearing permit.”
“The owner of the machinery had not applied for a clearing permit, but cleared the land. That is why the court prosecutor took action,” he said.
Sang said he did not know the size of the land that was cleared, but previous land clearing was more than 70ha in the area with land titles issued by the youth volunteers.
He said that he did not know the names of the land owners.
“I just know that the land titles bear names of people in the area. I do not know who the land was sold to, and now there is no land transfer to anyone,” Sang said.
Sam Chankea, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said on June 9 that people who encroach on land in protected areas are mostly rich and powerful people.
“Those who encroach on land are never poor families or farmers. Most are powerful, wealthy, or high-ranking people,” he said.