Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Officials inspect forest that was filled in, sold

Officials inspect forest that was filled in, sold

Koh Kong provincial authorities on Friday inspect a section of a protected mangrove forest in Koh Kong after being ordered to do so by Prime Minister Hun Sen. Photo supplied
Koh Kong provincial authorities on Friday inspect a section of a protected mangrove forest in Koh Kong after being ordered to do so by Prime Minister Hun Sen. Photo supplied

Officials inspect forest that was filled in, sold

On the orders of Prime Minister Hun Sen, Koh Kong provincial authorities on Friday inspected a section of protected mangrove forest that in December was discovered to have been filled in with sand and illegally sold, with the consent of local authorities, to tycoon Chea Leanghong.

The premier, during the closing of a national conference on decentralisation on Thursday, said he became aware of the issue through local media reports.

That same day, The Post had published an article revealing Leanghong had bought the land last March, after authorities had claimed over the prior two months they were unaware of who was behind the illegal activities.

“Koh Kong province must have a problem,” Hun Sen said. “Who allowed . . . this?”

The premier singled out Environment Minister Say Sam Al and Land Management Minister Chea Sophara, ordering them to investigate with local authorities, including Koh Kong Governor Mithona Phouthorng.

Kay Krong, chief of Stung Veng commune, yesterday confirmed that the person behind the land in question is Leanghong, although he had previously claimed he was unsure who was operating in the area. The land is within a “community zone” inside Peam Krasaop Wildlife Sanctuary, where villagers are allowed to live and cultivate crops.

Krong said Koh Kong Deputy Governor Orn Phearak, who led Friday’s inspection, had asked the land owner to appear to answer questions and also asked for any available documents pertaining to the sale.

Louk Sovanna, the wife of Leanghong, has declined to respond to questions since being provided on Thursday with a copy of a sale contract for the land, showing her husband’s name as the buyer.

Phouthorng said provincial authorities had already sent a report to the Environment Ministry to take action.

Sam Al declined to comment.

Seng Sokheng, with the Community Peace Building Network, said officials should not just respond on a case-by-case when ordered to take action from the national level. Even with the intervention on the 2-hectare plot of land, Sokheng said he doesn’t foresee a change.

“If that case belongs to a tycoon, maybe the Ministry of Environment can’t stop it,” he said.

MOST VIEWED

  • EU officials: Ending EBA an 18-month procedure

    EU officials have confirmed that it will take a total of 18 months to complete the procedure if Cambodia’s preferential Everything But Arms (EBA) trade agreement is to be withdrawn. According to EU Agriculture and Rural Development spokesman Daniel Rosario, the formal process has not

  • IPU slams government claim

    The president of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), Gabriela Cuevas Barron, has refuted a claim by the National Assembly that she “highly appreciated the achievements of Cambodia” in its July national elections with a tweet saying “Of course not!” before adding “No congratulations”. A delegation from

  • Conflict lingers on Paris Accords

    As the Kingdom prepares to commemorate on October 23 the 27th anniversary of the signing of the 1991 Paris Peace Accords, which ushered in an end to nearly two decades of civil war, there is political conflict on whether the tenets of the agreement are still being

  • EU agrees VN trade deal despite rights concerns

    The EU on Wednesday agreed to a free-trade agreement (FTA) with Vietnam, a country described as having a “major rights-abusing government”. This comes amid the 28-nation bloc preparing the procedure for a possible withdrawal of Cambodia’s Everything But Arms (EBA) preferential trade agreement on