Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Mondulkiri officials ‘cleared forest’

Mondulkiri officials ‘cleared forest’

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
The plaintiffs asked the court to seize hundreds of hectares of cleared forest as state property and to take action to restore the lost flora and fauna. Photo supplied

Mondulkiri officials ‘cleared forest’

Members of the indigenous Bunong tribe and civil society organisations on Wednesday filed a complaint against local authorities in Mondulkiri for illegally clearing 300ha of protected forest.

The cleared land is located in O’Raing district’s Pou Les village.

Adhoc official Pen Bunna, Bunong representative Kroeung Tola, and six others filed the complaint on Wednesday accusing five local officials of illegally clearing 300ha of hectares of forest and destroying rare plants and wildlife in an area known as Tuol Svay, inside the Nam Lea Wildlife Sanctuary.

The defendants – village representative Uth Simath, former Dak Dam commune chief Sam Vanny, Nam Lea Wildlife Sanctuary director Vuth Sarom, and O’Raing district governor Siek Mony – deny the allegations against them.

The plaintiffs asked the court to seize thousands of hectares of cleared forest as state property and to take action to restore the lost flora and fauna.

Tola said Tuol Svay used to be a lush forest brimming with rare flora. Beginning in 2013 and continuing to this day, thousands of hectares of it has been cleared.

There was a dispute between Simath and Mony involving the 300ha, and Simath accused Mony of being involved in clearing 10ha of forest land.

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of thousands of hectares of forest, exotic plants, and endangered wildlife because officials are pursuing their interest,” said Tola.

He said the land cleared by the officials sustained the livelihoods of thousands of members of the Bunong tribe, who used it to grow vegetables and medicinal herbs and raise cattle.

Filing the complaint was their last hope to stop the damage, Tola said, adding that many villagers were reluctant to take action because they fear being targeted by the authorities.

Mondulkiri provincial court spokesman Meas Bros said on Thursday that the complaint has been received and is under review.

On Thursday, Mony denied he was involved in grabbing and clearing the 300ha of forest and said he will go to court to defend himself.

“I only took office in 2017, but the conflicts dates back to 2013. How is it possible that I conspired to grab this land? The accusations are baseless,” he said.

Sarom could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

Bunna, who works for Adhoc’s local community empowerment programme, urged the authorities to take action to stop deforestation and to recover the flora that has been lost.

“This complaint is an example of local communities taking action to eliminate corruption and the illegal exploitation of state-owned property,” he said.

Watch video:

MOST VIEWED

  • Draft law on state of emergency pending finalisation

    Prime Minister Hun Sen will lead a top-level meeting on Tuesdays to review the draft law on imposing a state of emergency. Meantime, he has decided to close all casinos in Cambodia effective April 1. In the press conference after the National Assembly met today, Hun

  • State of emergency on table amid pandemic

    Prime Minister Hun Sen, his deputy prime ministers and legal team will meet on Tuesday to review the draft law on declaring a state of emergency, as Covid-19 cases rose to 107 in the Kingdom on Monday. Speaking at a press conference after a parliament meeting

  • Stranded passengers petition UK for help

    Some 10,521 people have signed an online petition calling on British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and relevant officials to fly nearly 200 passengers out of Cambodia. The petition is targeted at 15,000 people. Most of the passengers are British nationals, who are stranded in Cambodia after airlines cancelled

  • No word on state of emergency

    The National Assembly (NA) said it will postpone all unnecessary meetings in line with guidance from the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation (WHO) amid the Covid-19 pandemic. However, it did not say when or how it will debate the “state of emergency”

  • Many in limbo as tension heightens

    As the Kingdom restricts travel and prepares for a state of emergency, some foreigners in Cambodia are scrambling for a way home. Foreign embassies in Phnom Penh are making efforts to get their citizens out, but cancelled flights have become common due to the coronavirus

  • Covid-19 Pandemic: Force majeure and legal consequences

    Is the Covid-19 pandemic considered an event of force majeure? The World Health Organisation declared the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak a pandemic on March 11. Following this declaration, the Ministry of Health and other ministries have taken various legal and administrative measures to prevent the rapid