The Koh Kong provincial administration has warned that it will take legal action against anyone who attempts to grab land in an area that used to belong to the Botum Sakor National Park.
The 9,306ha located in Kiri Sakor and Botum Sakor districts has been reserved for low-income citizens and those displaced by a project undertaken by Union Development Group Co Ltd as per royal decree 0716, the provincial administration said in a letter issued this month.
“Some residents have tried to enter the land to clear it, with the intention of appropriating it or selling it illegally.
“The provincial administration will take legal action against any resident who continues to clear the land illegally. Please stop such activities and leave the land immediately,” the Koh Kong provincial administration said.
Its spokesman Sok Sothy said on Monday that some people falsely claim to have been displaced from areas around Botum Sakor National Park and are demanding compensation.
“We have already offered compensation to all displaced residents in the area. No one from this area is protesting anymore.
“The ones that are demanding compensation now come from other areas. They don’t have any identity documents and they don’t listen to reason,” he said.
Saing Puy, who represents more than 180 families involved in a land dispute in Kiri Sakor district’s Koh Sdech commune, said her group lived in the area since 1999 until their houses were bulldozed to make way for a new investment project.
She said the authorities are falsely claiming that they were new to the area and were occupying the land illegally, and thus were refusing to pay compensation.
“The local government says we came from outside this area. This is not true. We have been here since 1999,” she said.
While the authorities have compensated around 1,000 families involved in land disputes in the area, 200 families have yet to see any indemnification, she said. They will protest until justice is done, she added.
In a separate case, Khim Finan, the governor of Siem Reap province’s Banteay Srei district, has vowed to stop illegal land grabbing and related activities in mangrove forests in Tbeng commune’s Skun village.
Khim Finan could not be reached for comment on Monday.
However, he said in a Facebook post that he will not allow illegal bulldozing and logging in the area.
“If you think you can break the law and get away with it, you are wrong. Residents of Banteay Srei district will not allow criminal activity in the area.
“I encourage residents to continue to report illegal activities in the district to protect the common interest,” the post said.