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Koh Kong agriculture head denies selling state property

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Minister of Agriculture Veng Sakhon (centre) has been accused in local media reports of doing nothing to stop the sale of state land by his agriculture department director in Koh Kong province. Hong Menea

Koh Kong agriculture head denies selling state property

Meng Leang, the director of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries’ Koh Kong department, has rejected allegations by local media that he sold state land, as the ministry investigates the matter.

Meng Leang told The Post that the media reports are completely false. He said his work involves managing state public property and he has always been honest and never sold state land to any individual.

“The department often cracks down on individuals who grab state land illegally. We follow the law. In the past, we have demolished a number of huts and removed poles that illegally demarcated a land boundary in an area under the protection of the Forestry Administration,” he said.

He said that recently the his department had come under attack from news reporters and others who claimed it had sold government land.

“The news reports were exaggerated and had no supporting documents. Legal procedures will be undertaken."

“The ministry’s inspection team has often come [to the province], before and after this ‘news’ was released. This shows that [the ministry] has often instructed its inspection team to work on irregular issues."

“If the Ministry of Agriculture found that the department had sold state property illegally, in that case the ministry would take action and prevent media speculation."

“However, they came and found nothing. Some local media outlets are working together to accuse me without any evidence. The allegation is baseless. Let the law deal with [the media outlets],” he said.

The ministry issued a press release on Saturday saying that recently a number of news outlets had claimed that “the director of the Department of Agriculture in Koh Kong sold state land”.

They also claimed that the “Minister of Agriculture did not do anything, but kept silent”.

“The ministry has not issued any policy that allows the sale of state property and is not involved like the news reports claimed,” the press release said.

The ministry said it had sent inspection teams to regularly review the leaders and directors all provincial agriculture departments.

“Currently, a working group is continuing to follow inspection procedures with the highest sense of responsibility."

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Koh Kong Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. Supplied

“If there were something wrong, the ministry would take action in accordance [with the law] regulating civil servants and government officers in Cambodia,” the press release continued.

In response to the news outlets’ accusations, Meng Leang said he would soon hold a press conference at the department of agriculture to respond to the accusations.

“I don’t know when to hold the press conference, but soon – to tell the public that the accusations are false,” he said.

Provincial Information Department director Mom Malika told The Post that some news reporters published news without having proper sources.

“I don’t know what they want from their news reporting. I have noticed that some reporters report only from one side without transparency, while other reporters act professionally by getting comments from all parties,” he said.

Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries spokesperson Sreng Raksmey could not be reached for comment.

Sok Sothy, the deputy governor and spokesperson of Koh Kong Provincial Hall, told The Post that the provincial hall’s initial reports indicated there were no instances of state property being sold in the province.

“There is no [evidence of anyone] receiving state property or dividing land into plots. Our initial reports suggest there were no instances of the selling of state property, but we need to wait for an in-depth report from the Ministry of Agriculture,” he said.

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