Minister of Interior Sar Kheng slammed a provincial council member over a recent state land cut of 1,000ha in Banteay Meanchey province, declaring that the council did not have the right to do so.
Sar Kheng, who is also the deputy prime minister, made the comment at the ministry’s 2019 work review on Wednesday without naming the person in question.
“On that day, I saw a council official cut 1,000ha. I will not mention his name, but I questioned whether he had the authority to do so. I know he does not.
“I question whether the provincial governor even knows he has no such right either. But as a council member, he has cut 1,000ha in order to develop something which affects the people there.
“It is not known whether a solution has been reached with His Excellency Um Reatrey [Banteay Meanchey provincial governor]. I am saying that the provincial level cannot address it. It can only be done at the ministerial level. The ministry’s measurement of the land is correct.
“My suggestion is to repeal the council’s letter. Otherwise, the council will block the land arbitrarily,” Sar Kheng said.
Reatrey could not be reached for comment on Thursday.
Banteay Meanchey provincial Department of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction director Eang Narith said he could not comment because the issue must be carefully studied, as the location of the land is not yet known.
The provincial Department of Agriculture director Pang Vannaseth said on Thursday that the 1,000ha is located in an area of Taben II, in Slakram commune, Svay Chek district, bordering Soeng commune in O’Chrov district.
He said the provincial authorities and officials from the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction had visited to demarcate a state land boundary there on February 18.
“The perpetrators planted markers and abused the land for their own interests. About 1,500 families joined in the land grab,” said Vannaseth.
However, the ministry ordered them to vacate the land, after which the inter-ministerial working group established a joint commission to inspect and replant markers to restore the land to the state.
So far, officials have measured the land but not yet planted the markers. Vannaseth said: “We have prepared around 100 big poles and many other smaller poles. We believe there are some high ranking provincial officials behind this attempted land grab.
“The relevant officials are high ranking like Samdech Krala Hom Sar Kheng has said.”
Svay Chek district governor Loeung Sopheak said he was not involved in the border demarcation operation, but the provincial hall and inter-ministerial special officials were managing the case.
“I am not aware of this because I did not participate in the land measurement,” he said.
Provincial deputy governor Ly Sary said he had visited the site with the inter-ministerial working group to inspect the situation.
“I cannot confirm who is involved in the state land issue because it is very complicated. However, I do believe the state land has been encroached on.”