Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Villagers told not to claim land

Villagers told not to claim land

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Members of Kampong Speu’s ethnic Suoy families occupy cleared land within the Phnom Oral Wildlife Sanctuary despite authority’s prohibition. Photo supplied

Villagers told not to claim land

Officials of the Kampong Speu provincial environment department have stopped some 300 members of the ethnic Suoy minority from building demarcation posts on a 15ha plot in Oral district.

They said the land is located within the protected Phnom Oral Wildlife Sanctuary and are probing a potential collusion between the ethnic community and land brokers.

Provincial environment department director Em Sokhun told The Post on Tuesday that the 300 villagers represent 300 ethnic Suoy families from Kodontey, Putrea and Tanil villages in Trapaing Cho commune.

He said they had encroached state land in the sanctuary, and that each of them had cleared around 500sqm of land and planted the border posts without official approval.

“Our officials have explained to them that their activities were against the law, but they refuse to listen and continue to set up the posts on state land repeatedly."

“We suspect that they are being used by brokers who intend to claim the land for personal gain, and we are investigating,” Sokun said.

Khoeun Samrith, a representative of the Suoy ethnic community in Kodontey village, said the land was originally part of Suoy ethnic communal land.

He said the government ceded the land to Cosmo, a private company that had obtained an investment licence to turn the popular Te Teuk Pos hot spring into an ecotourism site.

In 2015, the firm went bankrupt and the land was returned to the government.

Samrith said the Suoy ethnic community members planted the border posts to prevent outsiders from grabbing the land.

“The land has recently been cleared. When we asked the authorities, especially environment officials managing the area, they said they didn’t know."

“We are worried that the communal land is being cleared and sold to private companies. We are also afraid of being accused of selling the land."

“Hence, to protect the communal land, Suoy ethnic community members from three villages agreed to reoccupy it, despite prohibition by environment officials,” he said.

Samrith disputed the environment officials’ claims that the communal land belonged to the protected Phnom Oral Wildlife Sanctuary, which is under the jurisdiction of the Environment Ministry.

Lem Heng, another Suoy ethnic community representative, said they would not protest if the communal land is included in a state-owned ecotourism project.

Heng said the community worries that the land may have been sold to the company. He said forest in the planned ecotourism site had been cleared, but there had been no noticeable signs of development in the area.

Oral district governor Muong Phy insisted on Tuesday that the land in question is part of the Phnom Oral Wildlife Sanctuary. He said the actual communal land spans 3085.68ha and has already been registered.

“We suspect the encroachment on the wildlife sanctuary involved collusion with land brokers. Other villagers who have registered their land can sell it after registration."

“But the Suoy ethnic community from the three villages have no right to sell their land because it has already been registered collectively as communal land,” he said.

MOST VIEWED

  • LPG gas explosion injures 13 people, including foreigners, in Siem Reap

    An explosion on Wednesday at a liquid petroleum gas (LPG) car and tuk-tuk refuelling station in Siem Reap city has left 13 people, including an American and a Briton, suffering burns. The seven most severely burned, including a provincial police officer, were sent to a Thai

  • Over 100 Chinese nationals to be deported for online scam

    The Ministry of Interior is planning to deport 128 Chinese nationals after they were arrested in Preah Sihanouk province on Wednesday for their alleged involvement in an online money extortion scam. Y Sokhy, the head of the Department of Counter-terrorism and Transnational Crime, told The Post

  • More than 800 people test positive for HIV in 2018

    The National Aids Authority (NAA) said more than 800 people tested positive for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) last year, joining over 76,000 others aged between 15 and 49 in the Kingdom already infected with the virus. The spread of HIV/AIDS in the Kingdom is showing few signs of

  • Rainsy vow to return on Nov 9 dismissed as ‘political warfare’

    An announcement from the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) that its “acting president” Sam Rainsy would return to the Kingdom on November 9 was dismissed on Sunday as “political warfare”. The CNRP made the announcement on Friday after a permanent committee meeting chaired by