The Kampong Speu provincial authorities are working to identify land grabbers after reclaiming more than 266ha of land at nine sites in Oral district’s Tasal and Trapaing Chor communes as state property.

Provincial governor Vei Samnang told The Post that the 266.31ha of forest land had been illegally occupied.

He said although the authorities have successfully reclaimed the land, they would search for the offenders and bring them to justice.

He said however that the authorities have yet to identify any individuals or groups involved in the case.

“This isn’t going to end – we will continue our search even if it takes us the next 10 years. We won’t relent in our search for them and will bring them to court,” he said.

Roth Thavy, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said he supported the move as long as the reclamation was done legally and the land would truly revert to state control.

Thavy said he was concerned that the land might be reclaimed under false pretences and then reallocated to other parties.

Thavy said it was hard to determine the status of land in the province because the authorities had not made the necessary information public.

He noted that some people, who are mostly employed by the wealthy and powerful, often encroach on state land and occupy it illegally.

“If the authorities take land from residents, surely they will stage a protest. But if the land belongs to real estate traders or someone powerful who occupied it illegally, they don’t dare to complain against such reclamation,” he said.

He called on the authorities to bring the offenders to justice without delay.

“If the authorities are willing to search for the offenders, it won’t take long to arrest and prosecute them. But if their real intention is to hide the offenders or delay the search, it will only worsen the problem. The problem will persist if they don’t bring them to justice soon,” he said.