Kampong Thom provincial governor Sok Lou said he would investigate a land conflict in Boueng Leav commune, Santuk district, where villagers have accused an agriculture official of destroying their cashew farms. The official claims it was the villagers who illegally occupied the land.
The governor said on Tuesday he could not yet judge which side is right or wrong.
“I will go down to see the place, but I just want to say for now that the location was a protected area and no villagers lived there before.
“Recently, the Ministry of Agriculture regarded the location as a forest recovery area. But villagers claimed it is involved in a conflict which requires a solution. So, we cannot just believe one side,” Lou said.
Local media reported that about 100 families had protested at the location after a forestry administration official in charge of the northern Tonle Sap area decided to cut the land for a forest recovery area in the commune.
The media reported that villagers had asked Prime Minister Hun Sen to intervene because they were threatened with beatings and imprisonment during an April 18 protest, during which two gunshots were fired.
Kampong Thom provincial forestry administration chief Teb Nhata said the 100 families were not residing in the area but were from Kampong Cham and Tboung Khmum provinces. They just came to plant cashews in the forest recovery area, he said.
He said the provincial authority and state land management committees will evaluate the land use.
Nhata said the villagers had entered the area to build plantations without the permission of the village chief, the commune chief or the local authority. He said he had previously filed a court order against three people but they did not present themselves.
According to his inspection, he said no villagers were living in the conflict area. There were only four buildings that were quietly built and without walls.