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.

MOST VIEWED

  • Touch: Rainsy will never return

    Sam Rainsy, the “acting president” of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), has claimed it has achieved 70 per cent of its struggle to find a solution to the current political situation in the Kingdom. Just before boarding a plane at Charles de Gaulle

  • Sokha continues call for dropping of charge after bail conditions reduced

    Not satisfied with having his bail conditions reduced, allowing him to travel freely in Cambodia, Kem Sokha says he wants his charge totally dropped. “As an innocent man who has been in detention for two years even without being found guilty, I continue to demand

  • Sar Kheng: Rainsy return not blocked

    Minister of Interior Sar Kheng clarified that Cambodia had never blocked Sam Rainsy from returning to the Kingdom. However, he said Cambodia reserved the right to take legal action as allowed by law against activities aimed at destroying the Kingdom. “No one blocked the return

  • Reports: Rainsy barred from Jakarta flight

    Sam Rainsy was on Wednesday refused entry to a flight from Malaysia to Indonesia, media reported late on Wednesday. The “acting president” of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party’s announced return to the Kingdom on Independence Day on Saturday failed to occur. Rainsy

  • King Sihamoni presides over opening of Water Festival

    King Norodom Sihamoni presided over the lighting of the lantern barges, representing the many ministries, in front of the Royal Palace on Sunday as the first day of the annual Water Festival celebrations went smoothly. Bun Veasna, an official at the National Committee for Organising

  • Government studying EU’s preliminary report on EBA

    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation on Wednesday said the government was studying the EU Commission’s preliminary report on the human rights situation in the Kingdom that could lead to a suspension of access to its “Everything But Arms” (EBA) agreement. The