About 35ha of Toap Mean community forest land in Kampong Speu province’s Thpong district has been encroached on by unknown individuals who fenced off and planted crops on 30ha of the land.
Villagers said the encroachment is a disturbing development and the community leader plans to request intervention from expert officials to prevent further problems.
Pho Phan, president of the Toap Mean community, estimated that the amount of land affected was about 30ha. He said local authorities had intervened in the past and a complaint was lodge with the court, but no solution has been found.
Liv Sarom, member of Community Peace-Building Network (CPN) who patrolled the Toap Mean community, said the culprits may have been backed by other powerful people. He said the community was still working to identify those behind the encroachment.
Sarom said there were two additional sites that had been encroached upon, the first one was about 4ha and the other one was more than half a hectare. This brings total land encroachment in the community to about 35ha out of 351ha of community land.
According to Sarom, the last land encroachment was crops, such as coconuts and mangoes.
“In the past, the Toap Mean community filed a complaint with the court seeking an intervention, but the court took no action. This time, the community will meet and prepare a request for expert officials to intervene and file the case with the court again,” he said.
Leap Leang Kea, the governor of Thpong district, said on July 26 that he did not know about the problem in the Toap Mean community because there was no report from the commune, but he has referred to commune authorities.
Toap Mean commune chief Hem Song could not be reached for comment on July 26.
Rath Thavy, the provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said he was unaware of the problems in the Toap Mean community.
However, he believes the court will resolve the case if there is solid evidence.
“If people submit a proper complaint, but the court rejects it then this is an injustice. However, regarding this case, I have not researched it so I do not know what exactly happened. I don’t know how people have submitted the file,” he said.