Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Official sacked for encroachment on protected wildlife sanctuaries

Official sacked for encroachment on protected wildlife sanctuaries

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Ministry of Justice Undersecretary of State Seng Sovannara. Facebook

Official sacked for encroachment on protected wildlife sanctuaries

A senior justice ministry official has been removed from his position after being found to have encroached on protected wildlife sanctuaries in Mondulkiri province’s O’Raing and Koh Nhek districts.

Seng Sovannara, Ministry of Justice under-secretary of state, was dismissed in a Royal Decree issued on Saturday.

His dismissal came after the provincial hall revoked his ownership of 1,754ha in three different locations in two protected wildlife sanctuaries.

Before the Royal Decree, Minister of Interior Sar Kheng on August 13 also terminated Sovannara’s membership in the national-level working group for Mondulkiri province.

Sovannara’s fall from grace followed an investigation which found that he had lied to local authorities in obtaining paperwork to claim the 1,754ha for private ownership. Sovannara’s ownership also led to a protest by the local communities.

Provincial administration officials who asked not to be named told The Post earlier this month that Sovannara’s paperwork was signed and stamped in January by local authorities – from the village chief to the provincial governor.

The officials said Sovannara had used the stamped documentation to claim 292ha in Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary in O’Raing district’s Sen Monorom commune and another 990ha in the Sre Pok Wildlife Sanctuary in Koh Nhek district’s Or Buonloeu commune.

Mondulkiri provincial hall spokesman Sok Sera acknowledged to The Post on Sunday that provincial governor Svay Sam Eang had signed the paperwork, but he placed the blame on lower-level authorities who he said had submitted it for Sam Eang’s approval without verifying if the land overlapped with conservation zones.

Sera said the paperwork would have ceded to Sovannara 292ha in Sen Monorom commune’s Pusam village, 472ha in the commune’s Purang village, and another 990ha in Or Buonloeu commune.

“We have so far reclaimed the land and place it under the jurisdiction of relevant authorities,” he said.

Provincial environment department director Keo Sopheak confirmed to The Post on Sunday that the 990ha is located in Koh Nhek district’s Srepok Wildlife Sanctuary, while the 292ha and 472ha in two different locations are both situated in O’Raing district’s Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary.

“The areas have not been cleared, and no boundaries have been installed. Seng Sovannara had only secured land titles,” he said, adding that the case had been referred to the higher authorities for further action.

The Post could not reach Ministry of Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak for comment on Sunday. But Ministry of Justice spokesman Chin Malin has said Sovannara’s alleged encroachment on the wildlife sanctuaries is an individual case.

Sovannara could not be reached for comment.

Pen Bonna, senior land and natural resource officer for rights group Adhoc, called for a more thorough investigation into the case.

He said all officials who have been implicated in the case, including the provincial governor, should be summoned for clarification. He said privatisation of public land could only be made official through a sub-decree issued by the prime minister.

“If the law is to be enforced, they [officials] must be held accountable. Had villagers not protested, over one thousand hectares of public land would have become private land without a sub-decree.

“Therefore, all officials who had signed on Seng Sovannara’s paperwork must be summoned for clarification and held accountable before the law,” Bonna said.

Mondulkiri Provincial Court deputy prosecutor Morm Vanda told The Post on Sunday that the court had no plan to summon the officials.

“We have not received any complaint and so have not taken any action,” he said.


  • Archaeologists find ancient remnant

    A team from the Apsara National Authority (ANA) has discovered a gatekeeper statue’s foot fragment at the Tonle Snguot Temple, within a metre of the toe of a statue found in 2017. ANA spokesman Long Kosal told The Post on Wednesday that the fragment was

  • Hun Sen to the rescue

    Cambodia has won praise for allowing passengers of the MS Westerdam cruise ship to dock at Preah Sihanouk port, thanks to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s humanitarian act. In a message via Twitter on Wednesday, the director-general of the World Health Organisation Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesu

  • EU partially withdraws EBA

    The EU Commission on Wednesday announced the partial withdrawal of the Everything But Arms (EBA) scheme, citing a serious and systematic violation by Cambodia of principles in the four core human and labour rights. The suspension affects one-fifth or €1 billion ($1.08 billion) of Cambodia’s annual

  • PM orders immediate action against ‘sexy’ live streamers

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday ordered immediate action against women who live stream their sales pitches on Facebook wearing revealing clothing. The prime minister said the practice erodes traditional Cambodian values and disgraces women. Hun Sen gave the order to officials attending the Cambodian

  • Trump tweets praise for Kingdom docking ship

    Cambodia continues to earn praise for its humanitarian act of allowing the MS Westerdam cruise ship with more than 2,200 passengers and crew on board to dock at the Preah Sihanouk port. The praise this time comes from none other than US President Donald Trump. “Thank

  • Japan calls for policy changes

    Representatives of Japanese companies and investors on Wednesday submitted a list of policy recommendations to the government concerning 21 challenges to the Kingdom’s business climate. Japanese Ambassador to Cambodia Masahiro Mikami and leaders of the Japanese Business Association in Cambodia (JBAC), Japan International Cooperation Agency