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Police probe land grab at Preah Vihear sanctuary

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A makeshift home built by loggers in the sanctuary. Fresh News

Police probe land grab at Preah Vihear sanctuary

The Preah Vihear provincial Department of Environment and Rovieng district officials are working to identify a group of people who allegedly cleared 200ha at Boeung Pea wildlife sanctuary and bring them to justice.

Prum Sitha, Rovieng district deputy police chief, said on Sunday that officials from the district authorities and provincial Department of Environment jointly investigated the land grab at the wildlife sanctuary on Friday and found land clearance at Romny commune.

“About 200ha was cleared and planted with mango, cashews, durian and coconut. A wooden home was also built and some agriculture-related materials were found on the site,” he said.

He said the suspects may have known about the investigation and managed to escape the scene. However, they had not demolished the home or destroyed the crops.

Provincial Department of Environment director Song Chan Socheat said on Sunday that he ordered rangers to work with police, military police and soldiers to search for the suspects to question them.

“Now our rangers have found some clues and are working to arrest the suspects,” he said.

Attempted land grabs have been frequent this year. In February, the Rovieng Forestry Administration investigated and apprehended eight people for grabbing land.

District governor Hor Bunhuor said on Sunday that logging and grabbing forest and state land for private ownership is illegal. He is also one of the officials who visited the land at the wildlife sanctuary.

“My team and I went to the site and of course the forest was logged. The suspects will be held responsible for the crime. We will find the ringleader behind all this,” he said.

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