More than 10 huts built in secret in the Phnom Oral Wildlife Sanctuary in Kampong Speu province will be removed by force after the owners ignored an ultimatum to take them down.
The sanctuary deputy head Hul Mara and environmental watchdog ACNCIPO director Chea Hean plan to send a joint force to remove the structures in Sre Ken village, in Oral district’s Trapaing Chor commune.
Mara said on Monday the offenders built them to encroach on more than 400ha of the sanctuary.
He said the huts were built near each other and owners cleared brushwood and logged timber to grab state land. Having cleared the area, they planted banana, cassava, mango, cashews, coconut trees and cash crops on the land.
“We gave them a 10-day ultimatum on August 14, but they have not taken down the huts. So, on Tuesday we will dismantle them with provincial and district police assistance and refer this case to the court,” Mara said.
Hean said on Monday he had been closely monitoring the situation.
He said he suspected powerful people of being behind the encroachment on land that is protected by a royal decree.
“They don’t use excavators to clear the forest, but they use machetes, axes and hoes to disguise themselves as residents who lack land. If they used the machinery to clear the forest, they would be seen as large-scale traders.
“We suspect there could be powerful people behind this. We will continue to investigate the case further,” Hean said.
A notice dated August 14 and seen by The Post on Monday said the encroachment is against the law as stipulated under Article 62 of the Law on Natural Protected Areas, which was promulgated by a royal decree dated February 15, 2008.
The notice further reads that any persons who violate the article will be punished as committing grade-4 natural resources offences, which carry a prison sentence of five to 10 years and a fine of up to 150 million riel ($36,700). Evidence will be seized as state property.