MILITARY families have agreed to vacate a section of protected forest land in Oddar Meanchey province after Forestry Administration officials filed a series of complaints against them, and one of two men accused of fraudulently selling the land denied the allegation on Monday.
The complaints were filed to the Interior Ministry and the Siem Reap provincial court last week, following an altercation in which members of the families allegedly opened fire on Forestry Administration officials and physically assaulted 10 of them.
Von Bunthoeun, the chief of the Forestry Administration office in Samraong town, said an agreement was reached with the families last Thursday.
“We have a contract with Hean Sok, the deputy of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces in Samraong, who encouraged about 200 soldiers and their families to shelter illegally in the protected forest community, and they will tear down the huts,” he said.
“There is no deadline yet, but they must tear down the huts as soon as possible.”
Hean Sok confirmed Sunday that the families would move, though he denied having pocketed money for the land from the families.
Von Bonthoeun had previously accused Hean Sok and Kim Saruon, the chief of a village located some 50 kilometres away from the protected forest area, of taking between US$300 and $350 for 30-metre-by-50-metre plots of land.
“We did not sell the land to villagers. They came to live by themselves,” Hean Sok said. “People accused me of persuading people and soldiers to live here and sell the land to the villagers, but in the name of RCAF it isn’t true.”
Kim Saruon could not be reached on Monday.
Forestry officials have said the section of land was granted protected status last June, but that 10 families moved there in late 2009. That number has since climbed to 200.
Thon Nol, the governor of Samraong town, said officials were looking for new land for the families. He added that they might be offered
somewhere to stay in a temporary settlement until suitable plots are located.
“We will try our best to move them from the protected forest area soon,” he said.