Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Illegal land grabbing on rise as prices soar

Illegal land grabbing on rise as prices soar

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Environment ministry spokesman Neth Pheaktra. Hong Menea

Illegal land grabbing on rise as prices soar

Illegal land grab cases are on the rise in protected areas as land prices have soared and the development of the agricultural and agro-industrial sectors has ballooned, Ministry of Environment spokesman Neth Pheaktra said.

“In 1964, Cambodia was 73 per cent forest land with a population of only 5.7 million. But in 2018, the country was 46.86 per cent forest land – 8.5 million hectares – with a population of 16 million,” he said.

Pheaktra said the lost land has been turned into plantation or for housing.

“Development has put pressure on natural resources. Through the National Council for Sustainable Development, we prepared the National Environment Strategy and Action Plan 2016-2023 to manage and reduce impacts on the environment,” he said.

He said the ministry has been implementing orders of a July 3 Cabinet meeting where Prime Minister Hun Sen instructed the ministries of Environment; Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction; and Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to compile information on illegally occupied land to possibly allocate the land to locals.

“This is the right decision leading to solutions to land problems in our protected areas. When people have long occupied land and relied on it for their livelihoods, we will allocate the land to them.

“We are reaching the point of solving land problems in natural protected areas decisively. We mark boundaries clearly and do whatever it takes to protect those areas. This is effective in stopping illegal land encroachments,” he said.

Pen Bunna, the local community empowerment programme officer at rights group Adhoc, said forest land has long been cleared by some rich and powerful people for private ownership. Relevant state institutions are the ones to take responsibility for those cases, he said.

“If we just talk about it, it is not enough because our country has clear laws. Encroaching on forest land for private ownership must carry penalties. At the same time, the relevant ministries and institutions have to use the law to revoke or condemn individuals for encroaching on state land.

“The Forestry Laws state criminals have to take responsibility and repay the damage to the forest and restore it to its original state,” he said.

Mondulkiri forest activist Kroeung Tola said some corrupt officials have turned a blind eye to encroachment on state forest land.

MOST VIEWED

  • Massive stingrays may live in Mekong’s deep pools

    US scientists have suggested that unexplored deep pools in the Mekong River in an area of Stung Treng could potentially be home to significant populations of giant freshwater stingrays, one of the world’s largest freshwater fish species. This comes as a fisherman hooked a 180

  • CCC team off on US business trip

    The Kingdom’s leading economists and private sector representatives have called on the US to renew its tax preferential status for Cambodian exports, as a Cambodia Chamber of Commerce (CCC) delegation departed for a weeklong business visit to the US, where they will meet with

  • PM takes time to meet, greet Cambodians living in the US

    After landing in the US ahead of the ASEAN-US Special Summit, Prime Minister Hun Sen was received by over 1,000 Cambodian-Americans including political analysts who welcomed him with greetings, fist bumps and selfies. Hun Sen also met with analyst Mak Hoeun, who had allegedly spoken ill

  • Khmer cinema classics back on big screen for free at WB Arena’s outdoor movies series

    On a recent Saturday evening at WB Arena, Bunsong was enjoying a tasty BBQ meal with his family after work on the long tables that had been arranged out in front of the restaurant as they watched a Khmer action movie on a big outdoor

  • PM heads to Washington for ASEAN-US special summit

    Regional and international issues and how to bring the ASEAN-US partnership to another level will be discussed at length as Prime Minister Hun Sen and his ministers arrive in Washington, DC, for a special summit on May 12-13. During the trip, Hun Sen and ASEAN

  • National Assembly refutes EU resolution

    The National Assembly (NA) has hit back at a European Parliament resolution condemning the political and human rights situation in Cambodia, calling it another display of the Parliament’s “double standards”. Key points of the resolution include a warning that the Parliament could exclude the