Mondulkiri provincial governor Svay Sam Eang on Friday requested that five provincial authorities immediately stop buying, selling and transferring land rights, as the province looks to curb the illegal occupation of state land.
Sam Eang sent a letter – obtained by The Post on Sunday – to the governors of Koh Nhek, Keo Seima, Pech Chreada and O’Raing districts and Sen Monorom town.
“To avoid large-scale anarchy through the illegal occupation of land, which results in rampant forestry crimes, the provincial administration requests that the governors of cities and districts intervene with commune authorities to immediately stop the buying and selling of state forest land managed by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries,” he said.
Keo Seima district governor Nuon Saron said on Sunday that he would comply with the order, adding that his district has long upheld the rule of law in buying and selling land.
“We will not only publicise the [governor’s] letter, but we have already been doing this work for a long time. We publicise forestry crimes and crackdown on it so that nefarious people do not grab state land.
“In Keo Seima district, we used to have a few instances of land grabbing, but we have unrelentingly cracked down on them. There are no noteworthy problems anymore,” he said.
Pech Chreada district governor Meul Soeun on Sunday also said his district had worked hard to crack down on land grabbing cases.
“We have long publicised all these problems [with land grabbing]. We have regularly done this work, not allowing nefarious people to grab state land.
“We have consistently worked to publicise and crackdown on offences. Regarding land titles, we don’t issue them at our own free will – we check the claims in detail,” he said.
Brong Nob, the Bunong ethnic community leader in Koh Nhek district, hailed the move as he had witnessed land grabs and community forest cleared for private ownership, with the authorities slow to challenge offenders.
He said officials had prohibited residents from forming forest and land protection communities, saying it fell within the local authority’s remit to do so.
“There were previously many instances of land grabbing in my area. But more recently, there have been more forest crimes than land grabs. However, in other areas I hear that there are more land grabs than in our area,” Nob said.
Eang Mengly, the provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said that the letter was a reminder to the authorities that are guilty of being slow to crack down on land grabs and forest clearing.
He also called for officials found to be involved in land grabs to be arrested and punished.
“Officials should issue letters calling for proof of land occupation and ownership rights.
“However, stricter measures should also be taken under the law. Just sending letters is not effective. I see many letters sent, but the problem remains,” Mengly said.