Minister of Interior Sar Kheng urged sub-national administrations to increase monitoring and control of illegal land encroachment in protected areas to further prevent these crimes.

Sar Kheng made the call while presiding over the ministry’s review of its work in 2021 and its plans for 2022 on February 23.

He said the management of natural resources and the settlement of land disputes were related tasks and it was the responsibility of the ministry to formulate legal frameworks and policy which would reduce encroachment.

He said sub-national administrations should accelerate the management of statistical data, including what land has been occupied and the identities of the people who rely on it for their livelihoods. Careful collation of this data would allow requests to be submitted to the government for some land to be allocated to those who need it, he said.

The minister added that in cases where protected areas or forests had been encroached upon, strict legal measures must be taken.

He urged provincial administrations to instruct village and commune authorities not to sign documents that allow the sale, transfer of ownership or illegal possession of land in those areas. They must also cooperate with the ministries and relevant institutions to mark border posts and register state land, he said.

Sar Kheng also instructed provincial administrations to educate local authorities and residents on the laws related to natural resources so that they could participate in protecting them.

He called on them to expedite the resolution of land disputes to avoid these complex problems lasting too long.

“While resolving land disputes and local protests, efforts must be made to avoid all forms of violence,” he advised.

Separately on February 22, rangers from the Kampong Thom provincial environment department erected signs around forest land in Sandan district warning against encroachment.

This came after Minister of Environment Say Samal called on officials, rangers, communities in protected areas and relevant authorities to continue working together to step up the protection and conservation of wildlife sanctuaries and protected areas in Cambodia.

The call came as he visited a protected area in Oddar Meanchey province on February 13.