Koh Kong provincial officials have ordered local developer Leang Him to remove soil she used to illegally fill in a creek and mangrove forest in Peam Krasaop Wildlife Sanctuary in Mondul Seima district. Local authorities said the instructions were followed after Leang received an administrative penalty letter from officials.

Tuol Koki commune chief Kim Sophem told The Post on March 22 that on March 19, the administration had issued a letter requiring Leang to complete the task within a week from receiving the notice. She was also required to replant mangrove trees to restore 3, 302m2 of land which she had filled with the soil.

“For now, Leang Him has allowed her working group to remove soil by using machinery and three dump trucks,” the letter said.

Sophem added that Leang had bought 12ha of land from villagers. But because she hadn’t placed poles clearly demarcating the boundaries, she had allowed the working group to fill in the creek and the forest with soil.

However, a resident said that Leang’s punishment was insufficient as other offenders that had secretly filled the creek with soil, cleared the forest, interfered with wildlife biodiversity, and taken state land for private ownership had received harsher penalties.

Pich Kheav, 56, of the village told The Post that in the past, the police had arrested some poor people and built case files for referral to the court. They had been jailed for logging the mangrove trees and burning them for coal to sell.

“I understand that police should build a case against Leang and refer it to the court, so she can be punished,” he said.

Leang could not be reached for comment on March 22.

Provincial administrative spokesman Sok Sothy told The Post that Leang had told district authorities that she had no intention of taking land. She had agreed to remove the soil and replant the mangrove trees as instructed by officials.

“For now, she has started to remove the soil. The next step will be to replant the trees,” he said.

Sok added that it is the role of a prosecutor to take other legal measures to research the case and execute legal procedures. “But I don’t know how the prosecutor will move forward on this case.”

Provincial department of environment director Hun Marady told The Post on March 22 that his working group would inspect the area and provide instructions for Leang on how to proceed.

“After the trees are replanted, she is obliged to take care of them until they mature. She will then be free of any further obligations,” he said.