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Preah Vihear park dwellers receive land to relocate

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Illegally logged trees are found in Techo Sen Russey Treb Park in Preah Vihear province on November 2. SOK TOUCH VIA FACEBOOK

Preah Vihear park dwellers receive land to relocate

The Preah Vihear Provincial Authority has decided to provide 10ha to 31 families in exchange for relocating from the Techo Sen Russey Treb Park – which is currently under the management of the Royal Academy of Cambodia – to prevent them from continuing to clear forests at the park.

Chea Sambath, deputy director of the Techo Sen Russey Treb Park, told The Post on December 9 that after a request from the academy, provincial authorities were preparing to relocate the 31 families.

This exchange aims to stop them from clearing the forest in the park because they had been cutting down trees for profit in the past.

“The Preah Vihear provincial administration has cooperated with the Chhep district to do this quickly, but the resolution seems to be slow,” he said.

Sambath said district authorities were preparing procedures to obtain comments from the provincial level. The Royal Academy of Cambodia requested 10ha to provide to the people. Each family would get land of about 30m x 50m in size with streets, wells and areas for tree-planting.

“This location is already prepared and is awaiting their arrival. But only some of them volunteered to move. Others were waiting for a better solution from provincial authorities and a ceremony to move from the national park.

“If we let them continue living at the Techo Sen Russey Treb Park, they will destroy all of the forest,” he said.

Chheb II commune chief Him Yan said he had attended several meetings with the Chhep district authorities and relevant officials to ascertain the procedures for relocating the 31 families.

Yan said some people had volunteered to move their houses from the national park to the new location without compensation but 12 families are demanding payment.

A small number of families seem to be reluctant to attend meetings to resolve the issue, but the commune is addressing it nonetheless.

He said some people demanded compensation because when they move, their houses would be broken or damaged and require repairs.

“Their houses are not small and used very expensive steel in their construction. This is why they are seeking compensation. The matter has been reported to the district level, which will inform the national level to help resolve the matter before the houses are dismantled,” he said.

He said if people moved to the new location, deforestation at the park will be reduced. In the past, he said, people cut a lot of the big trees at the park down and the authorities made a series of contracts with them to stop doing so, but the felling of trees continued.

The Preah Vihear Provincial Administration has set up a mixed working group to solve the problem for the 31 families.

“The mixed committee has decided to provide each family with land located in the north of Phleth pagoda, 0.5km from the old place. The new location has enough infrastructure such as schools, pagodas, villages and wells.

“On December 8, Royal Academy of Cambodia president Sok Touch led a park working group to patrol one part of the Techo Sen Russey Treb Park. They found 300 rosewood trees had been felled.

“Most of these forest crimes were done by people who live in the national park,” he said.

The working group inspected the homes of the 31 families living in the park and found that 15 of them had wood from trees cut down inside the park’s borders.

Preah Vihear provincial Adhoc coordinator Lor Chan said it would be good if the authorities relocated the people living in the park so that the state could benefit.

But if the relocation is purely for individual benefit, that would be counter-productive because previously, there have been such cases in Preah Vihear province.

“In some areas of Preah Vihear province, the authorities seized land and ordered people to leave. In the end, the land where the people had lived fell into the hands of powerful people and the private sector,” he said.

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