Mondulkiri provincial governor Svay Sam Eang on Monday rejected an allegation made by a prominent Supreme Council for Consultation member that he had lied to Prime Minister Hun Sen in his report about encroachment on the protected Phnom Dos Kromom mountain.
After leading a nine-day field visit to more than 10 provinces including Mondulkiri, Sok Sovann Vathana Sabung, who is also president of the Khmer Rise Party (KRP), alleged that Sam Eang had been “inactive” in stopping the construction of villas and karaoke businesses on the mountain.
Located in Sen Monorom town, Phnom Dos Kromom is home to the Cultural Centre for Indigenous People. A government directive issued in 2004 designated 102ha from the foot of the mountain to the top for the centre.
Vathana Sabung told The Post on Monday that during a two-day visit to the province, the working group did not see any indigenous people living on the mountain.
“We only saw guesthouses, KTVs and other entertainment places,” he said.
Sam Eang denied he lied to the prime minister. He said the provincial administration had collaborated with the Ministry of Culture and Fine Art, the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction and authorities at all levels to restore the area to its original state.
“He [Sabung] should have consulted me rather than just conduct a one-sided study . . . only those working on the ground to solve the case know clearly about it,” he said.
Kroeung Tola, the cultural centre’s secretary, said more than 80 wealthy and powerful families had built villas and entertainment businesses in the area.
“I agree with the group’s findings, but I ask him [Sabung] to study the root cause. Who allowed such encroachment in the first place? Land grab and construction of villas and KTVs did not take place during Svay Sam Eang’s mandate as governor.
“As far as I know, all of these took shape during the mandates of former governors Chan Yoeun and Eng Bunheang. I don’t take sides with anyone, but Svay Sam Eang is only a scapegoat.
“It’s difficult for him to solve the case because his predecessors had sold the land and allowed wealthy individuals to construct villas there,” he said.
He said indigenous people do not live on the mountain as it is a sacred site. Instead, they live between 2km and 3km away.