Kampong Speu provincial authorities confiscated 784ha of illegally occupied land in the Aural Wildlife Sanctuary in Oral district’s Trapaing Chor commune. It has given those who were illegally using the land one month to protest the decision.
Provincial governor Vei Samnang said on January 26 that the authorities had already ended the occupation of the 784ha in Trang and Chambok villages and returned it to the state.
He said people working and living on the land would have to present ownership certificates that proved they owned the land if they wanted to get it back.
“We have given them one month to lodge a protest. Some of them claim that they have ownership titles. Some of them may have old certificates through Order 01 issued in 2012. We cannot confiscate that land from them if they have such documents,” Samnang said.
Commune chief Tep Nem said he would hold a meeting with all sides to ensure that everyone in the commune understood the issues clearly.
He said he did not have the exact number of families who were relying on the occupied land, but suggested that around 20 families had cleared it though no permanent structures have been built.
“Some of the people of my commune are living on occupied land. Some of them know it is state land, while some do not know and regard it as their own. I will notify all of them that the land has been confiscated,” he said.
Chea Hean, director of ACNCIPO, an environmental NGO, supports the confiscation of the land. He said such land is often confiscated, but measures to protect it are limited because authorities do not always enforce the laws on protected nature areas. Such shortcomings, he added, let people repeat their offence, often on the same land.
“People still sell the land or grow crops, as well as build. This means that the confiscation of the land is meaningless and not effective. To make it effective, the confiscation must be taken seriously and those who oppose the decision must to be sent to court,” Hean said.
Nem disputed this, insisting that commune authorities have not neglected the issue.
“If people continue to use the land, they will be reprimanded. Should they not take heed of the warning, they will face legal action.”