More than 10,000 families have voluntarily handed over to the state 56,000ha of flooded forest land in the Region 3 protected area of the six provinces surrounding the Tonle Sap Lake, while more than 90,000 trees and saplings have already been planted there, according to the Fisheries Administration.
Fisheries Administration deputy director Ing Try told The Post that as of December 27, the working groups in the six provinces – Kampong Chhnang, Pursat, Battambang, Siem Reap, Kampong Thom and Banteay Meanchey – had confiscated 56,010ha of flooded forest land in Region 3 while 13,268 families volunteered to return the flooded forest land to the six provincial authorities.
According to Try, 30,211ha were returned by 7,414 families in Kampong Chhnang; 10,945ha by 2,263 families in Kampong Thom; 2,865ha by 1,237 families in Siem Reap; 6,556ha by 1,362 families in Battambang; 4,263ha by 651 families in Banteay Meanchey; and 1,171ha by 341 families in Pursat.
“We have gotten all that work done from November 28 to December 27 . . . There was no protesting, as all of the people had heeded [Prime Minister Hun Sen’s] instruction,” he said.
Regarding the reforestation of the wetlands, Try said that as of December 27, the six provinces around the lake have planted 23,492 trees including 5,410 bamboo trees, 258 palm trees and 67,259 palm tree saplings.
“The reason we planted these palm trees is for demarcation of Region 3 because if we put up border markers, we’re afraid those will just be moved or removed. As for the bamboo trees, we planted them in the existing patches,” he said.
On November 28, Hun Sen issued a strict order to the relevant ministries and institutions and provincial governors adjacent to the lake to stop illegal logging and land grabs there and return the land to the state so the wetlands that had been destroyed can be rehabilitated.
The order came after Royal Academy of Cambodia president Sok Touch investigated the region and found that tens of thousands of hectares of flooded forest land was illegally encroached upon.
Y Rin, spokesman for the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, told The Post on December 28 that the investigating judge was working on the case of Kampong Chhnang provincial deputy police chief Sum Socheat and provincial intervention police chief Keo Narun, who have been charged on several counts of crime each.
“This case is now in the hands of the investigating judge. As it is in the process of being investigated, we cannot confirm anything. The judge is working on this case,” he said.
Narun and Socheat, who were placed in pre-trial detention on December 19, have been charged with intentional vandalism, clearing and fencing flooded forest land and not declaring assets and liabilities. Socheat has also been charged with the additional crime of money laundering.
Om Yentieng, head of the Anti-Corruption Unit, reported to the National Anti-Corruption Council meeting on December 27 that Socheat was found to have occupied and encroached on 38 locations with an area of nearly 1,000ha.
He said Socheat had returned 678ha of the nearly 1,000ha of land to the state, but had sold land in Region 3 eight times for a total profit of $510,000.