Dak Dam commune forestry community activists in Mondulkiri province's O’Raing district on Sunday claimed that a deputy district governor was behind the recent clearing of their land.
Toeuy Chren, head of the forest community based in Pou Treng village, told The Post on Sunday that an excavator was found clearing between 600-700sqm of forest community land without permission on Friday.
Chren said the operator of the excavator told them he was hired by an O’Raing district deputy governor to clear more than 500ha of community land.
The excavator operator claimed the forest land was not owned by the community but was farmland purchased by a private company from more than 60 families.
“My community asked the excavator operator to temporarily postpone clearing the area while we check with government specialists to make sure the land is not located inside the forestry zone of my community,” he said.
Chren added that the land covered some 2,000ha and, while it had not been formally registered with the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, it was recognised at the provincial level.
Yoem Briya, head of the O’Raing commune forest administration, told The Post he had obtained a report from Pou Treng village after the land clearing was discovered.
He said he was currently reviewing the relevant legal documents.
“My team will on Monday inspect the area that has been cleared. According to a statement from the community, the clearing has not yet majorly affected the area,” Briya said.
Chas Na, Dam Dak commune chief, told The Post that he did not yet know the name of the company claiming to have purchased the farmland or who the families were that had purportedly sold it.
“The excavator operator showed us a map, and the area covers 500ha, which seems too large. If 60 families were to all sell their land, it would not be that big. Therefore, we need to check with experts to see if any such deal was legitimate,” he said.
Na added that the excavator operator had claimed he had been hired by a deputy district governor to clear the area to set the boundary between company and community land. However, he had declined to name the official concerned.
“There were many suspicious elements in this encounter, and the community and local authorities have demanded the excavator operator stop his activities while experts check the documents,” he said.