PRIME Minister Hun Sen has accused officials of encroaching on land in Thma Da National Park, located in Pursat province’s Veal Veng district, and warned that those who do so in the future would be subjected to “strict measurements”.
A statement issued on Friday afternoon by the Council of Ministers notes that Hun Sen raised the issue during its weekly meeting earlier in the day. It does not specify how many officials might have encroached on land in the national park, nor does it name any officials.
Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan could not be reached for comment on the issue yesterday.
“I will take strict measurements against any people who do not respect this recommendation,” Hun Sen is quoted as saying in the statement.
Pursat provincial governor Chhay Sareth said yesterday that he had heard some officials were “preparing” to claim some of the land, but that he did not know what government bodies they worked for.
He said that some former Khmer Rouge families were permitted to live within the park.
Veal Veng district governor Chhe Chhiv said he did not believe any high-ranking officials were involved in plans to take over some of the park.
Because much of the park is dense forest and parts of it are contaminated with land mines, he said, the only threat to the land would likely come from soldiers looking to undertake small-scale farming.
“That land is covered by forest and mines under the ground, so there are no high-ranking officials involved in this,” he said.
Last year, a group of 195 families in Veal Veng district asked the Ministry of Environment to carve out a social land concession from the park. Math Osman, a representative of the families, said yesterday that the request had been denied.
Since then, he said, local environment officials have sold off sections of the land.
“They have sold the land to people who want to buy it – 1 hectare is from US$700 to $1,500 depending on its condition,” he said.
Thai Chinda, the head of the provincial Environment Department, declined to comment on the issue yesterday.