Sre Ampoum commune police in Pech Chreada district, Mondulkiri province, summoned two members of an ethnic minority group on Wednesday to clarify a land dispute after they published a Facebook post claiming the land is illegally occupied.
One of the residents is Chroes Meus, who lives in the commune’s Pou Radet village.
Meus told The Post on Tuesday that another resident who lives in Pou Kroch village was also summoned by the police because of the Facebook post concerning land loss in Pou Radet village.
The land officially belongs to the state and is registered and recognised by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
“I don’t know why the police summoned me to make a statement. But I wrote the Facebook post showing a map of where the loss of land occurred in Pou Radet village. The forest was logged completely and I only posted proof of the loss,” Meus said.
An announcement issued by the ministry in 2013 said that community forest land in Pou Radet village covered 132ha.
Meus claimed that the area in question was cleared and occupied by private owners in February.
But the deforestation stopped when environmental officials travelled to the area and prohibited it.
At that time, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries transferred the land to the Ministry of Environment for management.
Meus said residents had reported the case to the commune authorities in the past, but it did not act on the complaints.
He said now, most of the land is occupied privately. Markers are planted on it and kiosks built along the water’s edge. Meus said it seems to have been established as a resort area.
In the past, Meus said residents of Pou Kroch, Pou Radet and Pou Kreng villages had foraged in the forest for products such as mushrooms and resin.
Commune police chief Meas Vey said the summons was unrelated to the land dispute, but he didn’t give an alternative reason for calling the two in for questioning. “I’m not in charge of the land,” he said.
However, commune chief Chhoy Bunloeun said police wanted to know the location of the land because the two residents had not reported it to officials. “The summons was to inquire about the land’s location,” he said.
Provincial Department of Environment director Keo Sopheak said his officials had not reported any land grabs in the protected area to him. “If they make a report [to us], we will investigate,” he said.
Forest activist Kroeung Tola said according to information he had received, some people were cheated and incited by brokers to sell the land to land traders.
He mentioned the involvement of a powerful Oknha and said all levels of authorities, from village to province were involved in the sale.
Tola said his officials are looking for legal assistance to re-possess the land as state property.
“We are planning to file a lawsuit soon because the law states that we can file a complaint to get the land back within 15 years [of the land grab],” he said.
If the land was encroached on, Tola said he will report the case to the top levels of authorities to request intervention.