The Kampong Cham provincial Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries is looking for the owner of a tractor involved in clearing wetlands at Cholkiri district’s Peam Chhkork commune, to send him to court for legal action.
Department director Nhin Hun said on Wednesday that on March 7 authorities had stopped a tractor while it was clearing the wetland within the Boeung Pra conservation area.
He said the suspect cleared around 1ha of land before citizens alerted the authorities, but the tractor driver escaped as police arrived.
“We have already prepared the report and will send it to the provincial court for legal action as we want to prevent such acts.
“We are aware of the suspect’s identity, but we will not reveal it while the case is under investigation. We need confirmation before we can proceed,” he said.
Commune Chief Ke Meth could not be reached for comment. However, commune police chief Kong Vuthy said he was not involved in catching the suspect, although he was aware that police had seized the tractor.
He said he was confident that residents in the area would not be involved in destroying the forest as people in the area wanted to protect it as a national reserve for all.
Last year, there was also a case in which people from outside the area attempted to land grab, but villagers intervened with protests and legal action.
“This conservation area belongs to people in this community and they will protect it. It is not anyone’s to grab.
“Local citizens catch fish, grow plants such as morning glory and find food to feed their buffalos and cows in the wetlands. They want to protect it,” he said.
Vuthy added that the tractor was suspected to have come from Pursat province.