Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Village officials accused of selling off forest land

Village officials accused of selling off forest land

Village officials accused of selling off forest land

Officials in Mondulkiri’s Sen Monorom commune have asked the deputy Purang village chief and a former Purang Primary School director to appear at the commune hall next Friday for questioning over the alleged selling of community forest land.

The summonses follow a complaint filed to commune officials on Wednesday by a group of 55 families belonging to the Phnong ethnic community in Purang village, in O’Raing district. A complaint was also filed to rights group Adhoc.

Seng Ye, deputy Purang village chief, and Yorn Sarith, the former Purang Primary School director, allegedly sold 59 hectares of forest land to Sreng Lorn, who owns a petrol station in Sen Monorom town, according to Nhan Srey, head of the local Phnong community. Documents for the January sale were allegedly signed by village and commune authorities, he said.

“We did not know about the selling until they started clearing the land with tractors last month,” Srey said. “The sale of land is illegal, so we just filed the complaint.”

Kvan Trel, chief of Sen Monorom commune, acknowledged having signed the sale documents but claimed the sellers had ownership documents they had received in 2008 from a former commune chief, adding that commune officials also weren’t aware that the land in question was community forest, she said.

“The community used GPS to claim the land as their community forest,” she said. “Ye and Sarith transferred the ownership to buyer [Sreng Lorn], and we signed the document based on the ownership documents issued in 2008 because we did not know that it affected the community’s land.”

Trel said she will try to find a solution when the sellers appear for questioning. If the problem is not resolved, she said, she will forward the complaint to district hall.

Ung Serey Vuthy, the current Purang village chief, also confirmed having signed off on the sale, though he also claimed to have done so based on the ownership documents. Serey Vuthy said that when Ye was the Purang village chief, he “gave” the land to Sarith. It’s unknown if Ye was Purang village chief at the time the 2008 ownership documents were issued.

“The sellers controlled the land before the establishment of the community in 2015 or 2016,” he claimed.

Sok Rotha, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said authorities and Adhoc inspected the disputed area last Thursday after receiving the complaint, and that based on his observations, the area was state forest.

“No one has the authority to have ownership of forestland,” he said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Ministry issues warning over coronavirus outbreak

    The Ministry of Health on Wednesday asked the public to be on “high alert” as a new virus wreaks havoc across Asia. However, no cases have been reported in the Kingdom thus far. The 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) has raised the alarm for its similarity to

  • Call for boycott of Angkor unacceptable

    Dear Editor, I wish to express my strong disagreement on the article published by Traveller for their website with the title Best places to go in 2020: 12 destinations you should avoid. Below is my opinion of the article. It is obviously free for the Traveller to

  • Probe underway after wreckage of drone with Chinese characters found

    Air Force Command spokesman Prak Sokha said on Sunday that investigations are underway regarding the wreckage of a drone that was recovered in Koh Kong province’s Koh Sdech commune in Kiri Sakor district. The wreckage has been taken to the capital for further examination,

  • Gov’t slams UN rapporteurs over Sokha trial statement

    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and the Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Cambodia to the UN Office in Geneva deplored the statement of three UN special rapporteurs who claimed that Kem Sokha’s trial was “tainted” due to irregularities. The reaction

  • No power shortages next dry season, says energy minister

    Minister of Mines and Energy Suy Sem has assured the public that Cambodia will not suffer power shortages during the next dry season. Speaking on local TV on Tuesday, Sem projected a rise in power demand during 2020’s dry season – which starts in November and

  • Gov’t takes steps to lower logistics, transport costs

    With the threat of losing trade privileges in the EU drawing closer, the government is taking measures to reduce logistics and transportation costs to safeguard the Kingdom’s competitiveness. The EU is due to decide whether or not to withdraw the Kingdom’s trade privileges