Kep provincial authorities are looking further into the construction of a bungalow to determine if it affects forest community land or differs from its original blueprint. Provincial governor Som Piseth has warned that legal action could be taken in the case.
In September this year, the provincial Forestry Administration issued a third warning against the owner of the development, Tau Sovuthy. It said Sovuthy’s project encroached on the Neak Tachhor community forest in Poang Teuk commune’s Chamka Bey village in Damnak Changaur district.
Piseth told The Post that according to studies of the case, some of the land belongs to Sovuthy, who has a land title issued by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. But because some of the construction trespasses on forest community land, authorities halted it temporarily.
“We will study this case further and we’ve halted the construction temporarily. If he still expands it, we will take legal action. The provincial authorities are considering two options – allowing him to demolish the already-built construction or instruct him to invest in it further and follow procedures to pay taxes to the state,” he said.
Theng Borin, the head of the provincial agriculture department, told The Post that Sovuthy was not authorised to build the bungalow.
“The authorities supported the investment and development, but [Tau Sovuthy] must request permission in advance. We will request specialists to come and examine his project. On November 11, we saw that materials were transported in and we will go to inspect a warehouse to see what is to be built further,” he said.
Sovuthy, a 58-year-old Cambodian-American residing in Bak Kheng commune’s Kdey Chas village in Phnom Penh’s Chroy Changvar district, could not be reached for comment.
However, according to a government report in August, Sovuthy claimed that when he bought the land, he immediately proposed a change in its type to allow it to be developed as a tourism area. But this proposal has yet to be approved.
He also said he did not know the proper boundaries for his land and instead followed land markers which were previously installed.
“Before clearing [the land], I did not go to meet with a cadastral official in Antong Sar village to request verification for the border. But the official replied that there was no need to measure the land, saying the land could be used according to the previous border posts. So I started constructing one kiosk and six bungalows on the land,” Sovuthy said.
Damnak Changaur district governor Kim Channy told The Post that Sovuthy had bought nearly 4ha from Buk Yan in June last year. Later, Channy said, Sovuthy cleared more than 10,000sqm of community land to begin his construction project.
“It’s good that specialists are looking further into this to understand the situation before deciding whether [Sovuthy] will have to take down some of his construction or merely rent the land from the state to be able to continue the development. Based on the actual situation [Sovuthy] may have built on community land unintentionally,” she said.