The Koh Kong and Preah Sihanouk provincial authorities are working to identify people who have filled in the sustainable Use Area in Koh Kong ’s Mondul Seima district and an area of sea in Preah Sihanouk’s Stung Hav district.
Koh Kong deputy provincial governor Sok Sothy told The Post on March 16 that he had ordered the Mondul Seima district administration and relevant specialists to search for people who filled in the banks of a channel on state land in the sustainable Use Area in Tuol Kokir Kraom village in the district’s Tuol Koki commune and make a report before making a formal decision.
He explained that in the past, a request was made for land then it was allocated. But the request depended on procedures to see which land was to be retained and which was allocated to residents. But some people had used soil to illegally fill in the banks.
“Now, specialists are studying a map to determine how many metres of soil were used to fill in the banks and how many metres of mangrove forest were encroached on. After that, we will make a report or establish a clear procedure,” he said.
He added that after having received a report, the provincial administration would hold a meeting to know where the perpetrators came from and what the penalties would be. But they would be penalised for filling in the channel banks.
Sothy continued that at this stage, he had ordered a halt to activities so that the district and commune authorities could search for the names of perpetrators. The provincial administration would know how much land had been filled and implement legal procedures.
Preah Sihanouk province’s Stung Hav district governor Chhay Sokunda said that on March 15, he led a joint task force to halt activities to fill in an area of sea with soil in Village IV, Otres commune without a permit. But no one had come forward to take responsibility. The area of water was secretly filled in at night.
He further said that the perpetrators had taken the opportunity to secretly fill in the area as the Ministry of Public Works and Transport had temporarily closed a road for construction. It connected Stung Hav town to National Road 4. The district administration is currently removing the soil from the area.
He added that the soil used equalled 40m in length. Hundreds dump trucks had been used and hundreds of dollars were spent, and until now no one has come forward to take responsibility.
“Currently, the district administration is searching for people to bring them in for questioning. But if they still don’t come forward, the administration will make an additional report to the provincial administration to file a complaint in court,” Sokunda continued.
In a notice on March 15, the Stung Hav district administration stated that the sea is categorised as state property any encroachment or construction was prohibited. The area was designated for public use.
The notice said that permission to fill in the sea must follow the land use plan of the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction which had detailed instructions for implementation and regulations in force to ensure the safety of the public and environment.
Soeng Sen Karuna, the senior investigator for local rights group Adhoc said that these areas belonged to the state, so they couldn’t be granted to any private companies for investment. Until public state private property is transferred, the property couldn’t be sold or leased to a company or other concessions.
He further said that if people illegally occupied and used land in coastal and protected areas, they are law-breakers. So, it is easy for the authorities to take action.
He added that if local authorities don’t act and the case goes to the national level, they could be penalised, especially if they have been found to be involved with criminals.
“So, local authorities should take measures to prevent people encroaching on beaches and protected areas,” he continued.