Minister of Environment Say Sam Al has called on residents in Taing Kok district’s Treal commune in Kampong Thom to legally register their names to receive 300ha in a Bengal Florican Conservation Area for farming.

The ministry announced on Saturday that the land concession came after O’Luo community members asked for 300ha from the conservation area in the Tonle Sap Northern Lowland Protected Landscape in Treal to use as farmland.

Sam Al said the ministry requested O’Luo residents to register in their community before he asked Taing Kok and provincial authorities to facilitate its registration.

“O’Luo residents must create a legal community acknowledged by law before being able to move forward. They also must have discussions with related authorities to develop their own community,” he said.

The request was made when Minister of Tourism Thong Khon, Sam Al, provincial governor Sok Lou and other governors held a forum with 300 Treal citizens concerning the possibility of occupying the Bengal Florican Conservation Area.

Ministry of Environment spokesman Neth Pheaktra told The Post on Sunday that the citizens who asked for land in the Bengal Florican Conservation Area represented about 180 families.

He said the purpose of having citizens register was to prevent them from taking the land and selling it in the future.

“According to community guidelines, if the land is given to residents, they do not have the right to sell to outsiders. We asked them to organise a committee and proper management mechanism to monitor this.

“If there is no management, the land given is sold. Without specific management, it can affect the conservation area,” he said.

Provincial department director Tob Kakada said authorities are working on registering the residents’ names.

In the past, some residents had taken part in improper activities in the Bengal Florican Conservation Area, and they were stopped by authorities.

But at the time, the residents claimed they owned the land as acknowledged by the Ministry of Agriculture.

“They had previously asked to create a community but they did not do it correctly. They asked the Ministry of Agriculture and no one acknowledged it. They claimed that they were residents anyway but when there were problems, they didn’t have supporting documents,” he said.

Bengal Floricans are birds native to Cambodia, Vietnam, and the Indian subcontinent and they are listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List.

There are six Bengal Florican Conservation Areas consisting of 31,159ha located in Kampong Thom and Siem Reap provinces.

The government created the Tonle Sap Northern Lowland Protected Landscape in May 2016 to conserve the rare birds.

Pheaktra said the Bengal Florican Conservation Area consists of 400 Bengal Floricans and it was the only area in Cambodia where new sightings have been recorded.