More than than 100 families in Koh Kong’s province’s Sre Ambel district have replanted about 30,000 mangrove trees on nearly 13ha of land that were encroached on previously.

A resident representing a community in the district’s Chroy Svay commune who asked to remain anonymous told The Post on May 4 that the 63ha in the commune’s Chroy Svay Khang Lech and Chroy Svay Khang Keurt villages is a mangrove forest that shelters a variety of flora and fauna, providing a source of livelihoods for local people.

"But early this year, more than 12ha of mangrove forest was encroached upon," said the community representative.

According to the community representative, the 63ha concession was revoked by the government from a company known as Chan Rat Group in 2014 and has since them been put under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Environment as the government wanted people in Chroy Svay commune to benefit from the land.

"The people in Chroy Svay Khang Lech and Chroy Svay Khang Keurt villages have protested five times against encroachment, including on May 3. We will go to the Chroy Svay commune hall as well.

"The people’s purpose is to demand the provincial administration to keep the 63ha of flooded land as state property forever for the benefit of the community," he said.

According to the community representative, a provincial working group on April 3 led by deputy provincial governor Sok Sothy inspected the land, but no decision had been made.

Over 100 families have planted mangrove trees on two occasions. The first was on April 24, with 187 people participating, and the second on May 3, when 107 people were involved. A total of 30,000 trees were planted in an area covering nearly 13ha of encroached land.

Provincial environment director Hun Marady could not be reached for comment.

Sothy, the deputy provincial governor, declined to comment, saying he had not received clear information about the alleged encroachment.

Koh Kong provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc Thong Chandara said logging, forest land encroachment, and filling canals with rocks for private ownership have increased a lot in the first four months of this year.

"After the abuse, we see authorities go down and make them promise not to repeat their offences or ban criminals from encroaching on state land. But we have never seen the authorities enforce the law…This problem occurs because it involves conspiracy to ignore the crimes," he said.