Since November, another 60 hectares of forest have been illegally cleared in the Samlot Protected Area, which straddles Battambang and Pailin provinces, local officials said yesterday.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a staffer from the Maddox Jolie-Pitt Foundation, which helps protect the area, estimated that the 60 hectares cleared since November – when 200 hectares were reported cleared – are mostly around three villages and the local Forestry Administration office.
“It’s because of the inability of the [Samlot Protected Area] director Mr Thorn Kimhong. He is not responsible for his work,” the staffer said.
Kimhong, however, rebuffed the allegation, saying he only has 40 rangers to guard some 60,000 hectares. He also estimated that “between 80 and 100” hectares are cleared each year.
“It is hard,” he said, adding that the community is a former Khmer Rouge stronghold, which in the mid ’90s numbered 4,000 families. But as the population has grown, he said, so has the demand for arable land.
Nonetheless, Kimhong acknowledged about 60 hectares had been cleared.