The Kampong Speu Provincial Administration has reclaimed more than 300ha of forest land in Oral district which was being illegally logged and cleared by unidentified individuals. Authorities are searching for those responsible for the encroachment for legal action.
The provincial administration on November 12 issued an order to reclaim the 310ha state forest land in Phnom Oral Wildlife Sanctuary in Samrong village of Oral district’s Trapaing Chor commune and gave those involved 30 days to protest.
Provincial governor Vei Samnang told The Post on November 15 that the order was issued so the public understands that the authorities do not recognise the possession of state land in that area.
“As long as people encroach on state forest land, we have to confiscate it and reclaim as state property,” he said, adding that authorities were also looking to bring the perpetrators to justice.
“No one escapes the law whether they are ordinary citizens or powerful people … Previously, when we reclaimed forest land, we did not see anyone come to protest.”
Roth Tavy, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, supported the move. “The area in question is in the Phnom Oral Wildlife Sanctuary, which is protected by a royal decree. So, if powerful people encroach on land in the sanctuary, I think the provincial authorities have measures to reclaim it.”
Tavy noted that in Kampong Speu province, state land was encroached upon mostly by rich and powerful people.
“If authorities take people’s land, of course there will be protests. But if the land is the land of a trader or a powerful person who occupies it illegally, that powerful person will not dare complain,” he said.
Thavy urged authorities to take strict action against those who illegally encroached on state forest land without exception.
“Only the provincial authorities have the competency to take legal action against offenders. If it was implemented, not only would state land be reclaimed, but offenders would be held accountable as well. I want authorities to punish those who encroach on state public land,” he said.
In March, the provincial administration also reclaimed 266.31ha of forest land as state land in nine locations in Oral district’s Tasal and Trapaing Chor communes after the land had been illegally occupied.