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NGO accuses pair of trying to sell state land

NGO accuses pair of trying to sell state land

A local conservation NGO has accused two people, one of them a soldier, of buying up and attempting to sell a parcel of state land near the Phnom Oral Wildlife Sanctuary in Kampong Speu province.

After receiving a tip from local villagers, the group Natural Resource and Wildlife Preservation Organization (NRWPO) inspected the 60-hectare plot of land in Oral district’s Rasmey Samaki commune last week and determined that it was indeed state land, NRWPO director Chea Hean said yesterday.

Nonetheless, he added, a man named Meach Sovannara and a soldier named Kong Koeun had paid off villagers to claim the land and subsequently sell it to them, so they could sell it on to land broker Phay Bun Thoeun.

“I visited the land, and of course it is forestland that belongs to the state. It is forestland, and it borders the Phnom Oral Wildlife Sanctuary,” Hean said.

The sale of the land had been signed off by local authorities who had not visited the site, he said, adding that he planned to send a letter to provincial authorities requesting that the land deal be stopped.

Tong Saroem, a Rasmey Samaki commune clerk, acknowledged yesterday that officials had not inspected the plots of land before approving their sale, but maintained the land had belonged to the villagers, and not the state.

“It is the right of the people to sell their land,” he said. “The land is not involved in any conflict.”

Sovannara, one of those accused of attempting to sell the land, also maintained that the villagers had owned the land – although they did not have land titles – and declined to comment further. Contact details for Koeun, the other alleged dealer, were not available yesterday.

Phay Bun Thoeun, the broker to whom the two are allegedly trying to sell the land, said yesterday that the plot of land was part of a more than 1,000-hectare spread that three different groups had been attempting to sell him.

“Many groups of people came to me to sell the land, including Kong Koeun, but I have not bought it yet,” he said. “If they have legal documents, I will buy it, but if it is the land of the state, I will not get involved with it.”

District Governor Moung Thy said he had not seen any documents regarding the land.

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