The Banteay Meanchey Provincial Court on December 22 detained a commune chief in Preah Netr Preah district and a reporter from the Khmer Student News Unit on charges of illegal encroachment, occupation and sale of state land that is part of Region 3 of the Tonle Sap Lake wetlands.

Samrith Sokhon, the prosecutor’s office spokesman, told The Post on the afternoon of December 22 that 60-year-old Em Nouy – chief of Phnom Leap commune – was arrested on December 18 after the provincial administration’s expert committee investigated and found that he was involved in the illegal encroachment upon flooded forest land totalling 110ha.

In 2018 and 2019, Nouy allegedly sold the land to six families for $39,700 and 110,000 baht, he added.

Chhum Thou, 57, a reporter for the Khmer Student News residing in Peam Kampong Krasaing village of Preah Net Preah district’s Phnom Leap commune, was also arrested by police officers assigned to the joint force on December 18.

Thou is accused of clearing and occupying flooded forest land totalling 200ha in Region 3 at the Ang Ly Sam An area of Krabao village in Preah Net Preah district’s Phnom Leap commune in 2018 and 2019.

“The two suspects were remanded into the custody of the provincial prison by the investigating judge on charges of encroachment, possession and sale of state-owned flooded forest land under Article 98 of the Law on Fisheries,” he said.

Deputy provincial governor Ngor Mengchruon told The Post that the provincial working group continues to work with the national commission to investigate, research and crack down on those who have encroached on the lake’s wetlands.

“We will not make any exceptions. We will detain them and send them to court if they are found to be involved in the crime of encroaching on the state’s flooded forests for personal possession or to illegally sell them,” he said.

Separately, the Tbong Khmum Provincial Administration on December 21 issued instructions to all authorities under its supervision to strengthen public order by inspecting the construction of buildings and houses as well as land reclamation projects and subdivision management to prevent further encroachment on the flooded forests in protected areas.

Provincial governor Cheam Chansophorn ordered that officials take all necessary measures in accordance with their professional duties and responsibilities to investigate and put a stop to anyone encroaching on flooded forests and other conservation areas.