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Two sent to prison, two hunted for clearing land in Ream National Park

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Two men were charged and jailed for land grab in Sihanoukville. Supplied

Two sent to prison, two hunted for clearing land in Ream National Park

Two men were sent by the Preah Sihanouk court on Monday to the provincial prison on charges of allegedly being behind the clearing of state land in the protected Ream National Park. If found guilty, they face a maximum of 10 years imprisonment.

In the meantime, the hunt is on for two accomplices.

Preah Sihanouk provincial court spokesman Lim Bun Heng told The Post on Tuesday that Soeb Ponlok and Taing Kenh were charged after lengthy questioning by the investigating judge in regards to illegal logging, the clearing, burning and bulldozing of forest land to claim ownership and preventing authorities from carrying out their duties.

“We charged the two men with encroaching on and clearing state land for ownership and preventing nature preservation officials from carrying out their duties. They have been sent to the provincial prison,” Bun Heng said.

They face up to between five and 10 years in prison if found guilty, said Bun Heng, who is also the provincial deputy prosecutor.

Ministry of Environment spokesman Neth Pheaktra said: “Besides the two ringleaders, there are two other accomplices suspected of being involved. Provincial authorities are continuing their investigations.”

Ponlok and Kenh were arrested on Saturday in Prey Nop district’s Ream commune and have been charged with logging, clearing, burning and bulldozing the forest for ownership under articles 56 and 62 of the Law on Natural Resource Protection.

They were additionally charged with preventing natural resource protection administration officials from carrying out their duties, which are criminal offences under articles 56 and 61 of the same law, said Pheaktra, who is also secretary of state at the Ministry of Environment.

Relevant provincial authorities had instructed Ponlok to cease his activities and take down the illegal settlements, but he continued to defy the orders, leading to his arrest.

The Ministry of Environment late last week also warned others illegally occupying and selling land in Ream National Park to immediately halt such activities or face legal action.

Ream National Park covers 150,000ha and was designated a national park by Royal Decree in 1993.

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