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Officials blocked from probing land clearing

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Environmental officials talk to neighbours of a plantation owner who may have illegally cleared land in Kampong Speu province. Photo supplied

Officials blocked from probing land clearing

A group of conservation NGOs and officials from the Ministry of Environment on Monday were prevented from inspecting 51 hectares of land in Kampong Speu province’s Phnom O’ral Wildlife Sanctuary that is said to have been illegally grabbed.

National Resource and Wildlife Preservation Organisation director Chea Hean accused a plantation owner of preventing him and government officials from surveying the land that is apparently being cleared and seized in Oral district’s Sre Kin village.

But the supposed landowner claims the group was out to get his money.

Hean claimed that Sieng Samen and her husband Ou Samrech Chesda ordered the group of seven off their land before locking a gate and screaming threats at the officials.

He said due to the landowners’ reaction, the group drafted a report to be sent to Environment Minister Say Sam Al, requesting his intervention to inspect the property.

“The request serves to ensure that any illegally cleared land is seized as state property, apart from seeking reforestation and punishment based on the law of protected areas,” Hean said.

Countering Hean’s claims, Samrech Chesda said that the former had a reputation for causing land-based disturbances in the area, and had previously trespassed on his property.

Samrech Chesda claimed his land is 50 hectares which were bought from villagers years ago and none of the forest lands was illegally cleared.

“The organisation and environment officials have no legal documents and my workers told them that they are not permitted to go on the land unless they have legal permission,” he said.

Kampong Speu provincial environment department deputy head Nov Nak said on Monday that officials weren’t allowed on the property because the owners were not present.

On July 23, Hean filed a complaint with Justice Minister Ang Vong Vattana, to intervene over the matter against Sieng Samen and her associates.

His complaint alleged in part that there was “logging and clearing of the wildlife sanctuary protected by Royal Decree and causing chaos”.

Until today, the Ministry of Justice has not provided any information in regards to the case.

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