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Land grabbing ‘deeply concerning’

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Svay Rieng Deputy Governor orders Chea Sokha, the Prasot market owner who illegally filled a lake in the province’s Svay Tiep district, to remove the soil from the lake. Vireak Mai

Land grabbing ‘deeply concerning’

Svay Rieng Deputy Governor Hem Piseth held a press conference on Monday ordering Chea Sokha, the Prasot market owner who illegally filled a lake in Svay Tiep district, Svay Rieng Province, to remove the soil from the lake and return it to its original state.

Piseth said whenever there is development, it always has some impact, but it should not be for the wrong reasons. He said he wants to see cooperation between the local authorities, the private sector and the people so that society can move forward.

“The problem is land grabbing. They filled the lake in order to build the market. I want them to cooperate so the matter can be resolved because it’s not just one issue; there are hundreds of other issues for us to solve."

“Therefore, I regard this matter as deeply concerning. A lot of comments are being raised about this land grabbing and filling up the lake,” he said.

Piseth said land grabbing is partly caused by increasing land prices but he said investment and development are for the prosperity of the province. And without investment and land development, state property could be lost.

“For the issue to be dealt with, we need to see how much land he owns, which land belongs to him, which land he occupies. I do not want to talk about the market above ground, because it’s state land."

“If the land at Prasot market remains without investment, will it remain unoccupied? Who will protect it? Surely it will be lost."

“That’s why our state always seeks investment partners so that investors can take control for about 10 to 20 years. After that, the land will still be ours . . . still, belong to the state,” he said.

Svay Tiep deputy police chief Keo Sophorn said on Monday that the lake Sokha filled is about 20sqm but, after an order from the authorities yesterday, the market owner was using excavators to remove the soil from the lake.

“On Monday, after the press conference, the Svay Rieng deputy governor ordered the market owner to remove the filled up soil from the lake and entrust the district governor to inspect its implementation."

“The process has been taking place since yesterday but so far I haven’t been there, so I do not know whether the land has been cleared from the lake yet or not,” Sophorn said.

The Svay Rieng provincial administration confirmed that the local, district and provincial authorities had previously been informed about the illegal filling of the lake.

It said they had sent a joint committee to address the issue, hinder the illegal activities and solve the problem by ordering the market owner to remove the soil and restore the lake.