Kampong Speu provincial governor Vei Samnang has reclaimed 413ha of state land that he said had been illegally occupied in Phnom Oral Wildlife Sanctuary in Oral district’s Trapaing Chor commune.

In a letter seen by The Post on Sunday, the governor said You Sithat had cleared the land in the O’Chrangong area in Sre Kin village for private ownership without authorisation.

However, Samnang said his decision is subject to an appeal.

“You Sithat has 30 days to protest the decision,” said the letter.

In the same letter, Samnang urged the provincial environmental department, Oral district administration, Phnom Oral Wildlife Sanctuary bureau and provincial sub-committees to eliminate all forms of forest land clearance, burning, occupying or grabbing land for private ownership.

“We must reclaim state forest land that had been illegally occupied,” he said.

Samnang told The Post on Sunday that the land in question is protected by a Royal Decree.

“We have an [official] map to show the 413ha in the area is under the environment department’s jurisdiction. Occupying land protected by the decree is against the law,” he said.

Samnang said offenders would not only return illegally occupied land but will also be required to replant trees on the land they had cleared.

Natural Resource and Wildlife Preservation Organisation director Chea Hean applauded the move. He called on the provincial governor to pursue tough measures against state land grabbers.

“Parts of the Phnom Aural Wildlife Sanctuary and forest land in the Kirirom National Park are still being grabbed. Residents are being used as a tool to grab land.

“I have submitted numerous letters to the provincial governor requesting him to reclaim forestry land that had been illegally occupied. The governor also needs to ensure effective implementation of his decision because it would be useless if the [lower-level] authorities take it lightly,” he said.

Hean alleged that some offenders had colluded with local authorities to grab and occupy state land by forging land documentation.

The Post could not reach Sithat for comment on Sunday.