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Pursat families ordered to vacate illegal homes in wildlife sanctuary

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Families were accused of clearing the forest in Phnom Samkos Wildlife Sanctuary. Photo supplied

Pursat families ordered to vacate illegal homes in wildlife sanctuary

Pursat provincial authorities gave 21 families seven days to take down 43 houses and cottages after officials said they were illegally occupying land in a protected natural area of the Phnom Samkos Wildlife Sanctuary.

The families were told they face legal action if they refuse to comply.

Pursat provincial governor Mao Thornin issued a notice on September 3 stating offenders are encroaching on land in the protected natural area of Phnom Samkos Wildlife Sanctuary from bridge O-17 to hill 1500 in Anlong Reap commune in Veal Veng district.

The families were accused of clearing the forest and the notice said the forest and land are natural resources.

“When the deadline comes, the provincial administration will take action. We will not take responsibility for damage to the property. If residents resist or object violently, they will be punished,” the notice said.

Phnom Samkos Wildlife Sanctuary director Phan Sophearin said on Monday that he explained the notice to the families and urged them to cooperate.

He said they are migrants from different areas and provinces. They cleared the land since 2018 or last year. Some of them sold land, but their occupation was not recognised by local officials.

“When the deadline comes, they have to take down the houses and cottages,” he said.

A representative for the 21 families could not be reached for comment.

The Pursat provincial coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, Sam Chankea, said on Monday he had yet to receive news of the notice. But he said that he will investigate the matter.

“I don’t dare comment on this case yet because I have yet to go there and investigate the location. I don’t know the full story,” he said.

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