Siem Reap province’s Banteay Srei district authorities on Friday stopped and warned of legal action against the unauthorised clearing of forest land led by a machinery owner at the district’s Hal village in Tbeng commune.
District governor Khim Finan told The Post on Sunday that he had gone to the area after receiving reports of a group of individuals clearing the village’s forest and digging a canal to construct a private road in secret to grab state land in the area.
“The activities will affect the ecosystem in the forest and disrupt the flow of water in the old canals. It will also affect the residents living downstream who rely on the canal for their livelihood.
“I have instructed village and commune officials and residents directly to put all these illegal activities to an abrupt halt and ensure that such anarchy will not occur again.
“Otherwise, the officials and residents will be held accountable before the law,” Finan said, adding that grabbing of state land was illegal.
Finan said the cutting down of mangrove trees had led to the drying up of water in the area, which would seriously affect water supply in the Siem Reap River.
“If the activities are not stopped on time, in the future, our Siem Reap River will lose water,” he said.
Finan said what he found most concerning was the illegal land-clearing activities in the conserved forest of Banteay Srei district and the Kulen Mountain located in Phnom Kulen National Park.
These activities, he said, harmed the natural and cultural wealth of Siem Reap.
Adhoc investigator Sous Narin confirmed the illegal land-clearing activities in the areas.
“Because the authorities didn’t solve the problems effectively, they kept entering to clear the forest further. But after being prohibited by the authorities, their activities have discontinued,” he said.
Narin observed that activities related to grabbing of state lands not only occurred in Banteay Srei but in other districts as well.
Finan said the issue of land grabbing in the Kulen Mountain forests had been happening for a long time. Over the last few years, residents had further encroached on state land by building guardian spirit houses.
By November this year, the authorities had demolished 49 of the 1,000 illegal constructions that encroached on the forested area of the Kulen Mountain.