Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Villagers protest the cutting, burning of acacia trees in S'ville

Villagers protest the cutting, burning of acacia trees in S'ville

Villagers protest the cutting, burning of acacia trees in S'ville

LOCAL villagers and municipal officials in Sihanoukville have illegally cleared more than 100 hectares of acacia forest in Lek Muoy commune, residents and NGOs in the area said.

The acacia forest was planted as part of a joint effort between the Cambodian and Danish governments to protect local wetlands in Kbal Chhai that constitute the municipality's largest supply of fresh water.

"Authorities charged with protecting this area are doing nothing," said So Song, a Kbal Chhai resident. "They ... don't care that it will affect the availability of our water resources in Sihanoukville."

She said logging on protected land concessions is illegal, and she regrets there has been no reaction from the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA), which worked jointly with Cambodian officials to protect the area in 2003.

"Some residents have not cut trees, but several businessmen have cleared the land and sold it for as much as US$2,800 for a 10-metre-by-30-metre tract," So Song said.

Bun Narith, a coordinator with the local human rights group Licadho in Sihanoukville, said the forest in Kbal Chhai was part of a land concession made to DANIDA in 2003 for the protection of local wetlands.

"The acacia trees are government property, and they have been cut down and burned," Bun Narith said.

Investigation launched

Doung Socheat, deputy of the provincial Forestry Administration Department, said his officers have started to investigate claims of illegal logging.

"We are trying to protect the area by replanting lost acacia trees during the rainy season, but people continue to harvest them," he said, adding that he has asked for assistance from police in Sihanoukville.

"This is concession land, so anyone trying to sell or buy it is breaking the law," Doung Socheat said.

Say Hak, governor of Sihanoukville Municipality, said he understands the importance of preserving the wetlands.

"If anyone has information that government officials are involved in seizing this protected land, they should write down names and send them to me directly," the governor said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Serious flooding across country

    The Kampong Speu provincial Committee for Disaster Management on Wednesday issued an alert after non-stop heavy rain caused widespread flooding. In Koh Kong province, authorities are working with the disaster committee and the Cambodian Red Cross to assist those affected after more than 350 homes were

  • CNRP points to King in call for vote boycott

    Leaders of the former Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) have taken a new tack in their call for a boycott of the national elections later this month. They are now claiming that the people should follow the King, who is expected to abide by tradition

  • Actress’s NGO takes heat for promoting the ruling party

    An actress’s NGO which participated in an election campaign event contrary to the Law on Association and Non-Governmental Organisations (Lango) has been slammed. Chorn Chanleakena, a celebrity and the president of the Association of Artists Volunteering to Help Society, allegedly led its members in

  • Troop moves ‘won’t worry people’

    Senior officials at the Ministry of Defence and National Police said on Tuesday that riot training provided to the country’s police forces were aimed at preventing unexpected demonstrations and strikes before and after the July 29 national elections. The troop mobilisation, they said, would not