Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Over 2,000ha of flooded forest seized in new push

Over 2,000ha of flooded forest seized in new push

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Authorities investigate flooded forest encroachment at the Tonle Sap Lake in Kampong Chhnang province on Monday. FACEBOOK

Over 2,000ha of flooded forest seized in new push

Over 2,000ha out of more than 10,000ha of flooded forestland around the Tonle Sap Lake have been seized, with more than a dozen offenders already begging for clemency for their encroachment on the protected areas which the government says must be preserved as fish-spawning habitat.

The confiscation came just one day after Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered Minister of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction Chea Sophara and other relevant authorities to investigate the “anarchy” taking place around the lake and crack down on the widespread encroachment and deforestation there.

Before the operation began, the land management ministry set up six working groups with components from different ministries to investigate portions of six provinces around the lake: Kampong Chhnang, Pursat, Battambang, Banteay Meanchey, Siem Reap and Kampong Thom.

Kampong Chhnang provincial governor Sun Sovannarith told The Post on November 29 that the working group had already confiscated more than 2,000ha of flooded forestland in Kampong Leng district’s Chranouk commune.

He said 13 people were involved in the encroachment in that area but all of them had come forward and confessed in order to try and get clemency. The authorities did not arrest them but instead warned and educated them – despite Hun Sen’s direct admonition in his speech the previous evening that the time for “educating” offenders was over with.

“We are working with the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and provincial administration to come up with a plan to reforest this area. We will plant trees that are resilient and will thrive in the flooded areas,” he said.

Royal Academy of Cambodia president Sok Touch – who set the wheels in motion on this operation with his investigation of the areas around the lake which he reported to Hun Sen – told The Post on November 29 that the 2,000ha of flooded forest was just a small portion of the total area that has been encroached upon by just a small group of people.

Touch said the other provinces around Tonle Sap also suffered from even more serious encroachments – covering tens of thousands of hectares – and that many high-ranking officials there were involved.

“The 2,000ha of land confiscated is just a small portion. There are numerous people involved. What I have found is that up to tens of thousands of hectares have been encroached upon and we have to seize all of the land back from them.

“In Pursat, the encroachment is bad enough that a village has even formed in the middle of the forest there. The 2,000ha they just took back involved just one person’s crimes. There are still hundreds of more people involved,” he said.

Agriculture minister Veng Sakhon said the investigation had found that many thousands of hectares of flooded forested had been destroyed. In Kampong Thom alone, he said there are already a total of 40 cases being prepared for referral to court.

The 40 cases of encroachment upon flooded forestlands in Kampong Thom cover more than 3,566ha with the crimes taking place from 2019 to 2021 across the four districts of Stung Sen, Baray, Stong and Kampong Svay.

“All of these cases have been sent to the Kampong Thom Provincial Court by our officials from the provincial agriculture department who acted in their capacity as judicial police. The cases are now in the hands of the investigating judge.

“Only one out of the 40 cases has been tried, but the verdict has not yet been delivered by the court and the defendant in that case is – unfortunately – the deputy prosecutor of the Kampong Thom Provincial Court,” Sakhon said.

Sok Touch said the flooded forests must be reclaimed and restored because they are where the lake’s fish spawn.

He noted that fish from the Tonle Sap Lake has been the main source of protein in the diet of the Cambodian people for thousands of years and if the encroachment and deforestation continues, it will end up destroying those fisheries.

MOST VIEWED

  • NY sisters inspired by Khmer heritage

    Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, Cambodian-American sisters Edo and Eyen Chorm have always felt a deep affinity for their Cambodian heritage and roots. When the pair launched their own EdoEyen namesake jewellery brand in June, 2020, they leaned heavily into designs inspired by ancient Khmer

  • Schools drawn into Manet degree row

    Prime Minister Hun Sen stepped into the Hun Manet-Sam Rainsy war of words over the validity of Manet’s degree from the US Military Academy at West Point, set off by Rainsy’s claims that Manet had received a “second-class degree” or “honorary degree”. Hun

  • Cambodia records first Omicron community case

    The Ministry of Health on January 9 reported 30 new Covid-19 cases, 29 of which were imported and all were confirmed to be the Omicron variant. The ministry also reported 11 recoveries and no new deaths. Earlier on January 9, the ministry also announced that it had detected the Kingdom's

  • The effects of the USD interest rate hike on Cambodian economy

    Experts weigh in on the effect of a potential interest rate expansion by the US Federal Reserve on a highly dollarised Cambodia Anticipation of the US Federal Reserve’s interest rate hike in March is putting developing economies on edge, a recent blog post by

  • PM eyes Myanmar peace troika

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has suggested that ASEAN member states establish a tripartite committee or diplomatic troika consisting of representatives from Cambodia, Brunei and Indonesia that would be tasked with mediating a ceasefire in Myanmar. The premier also requested that Nippon Foundation chairman Yohei Sasakawa

  • Kampot tourism quay ‘90% done’

    Construction on Kampot International Tourism Port – a 4ha quay in Teuk Chhou district about 6km west of Kampot town – has fallen off track, reaching 90 per cent completion, according to a senior Ministry of Tourism official last week. The project is now planned to be finished