Kampong Speu governor orders intruders off state forest land

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Chea Hean, director of an environmental watchdog Anti-Corruption, Natural Resource Protection and Civil Rights Protection. CHEA HEAN VIA FACEBOOK

Kampong Speu provincial governor Vei Samnang has issued an order prohibiting clearing and settling on more than 281ha of state forest land in two locations after some residents illegally occupied and farm the land.

He said the villagers had reportedly been hired to do so.

Samnang’s order would affect more than 110ha of land in Sar village in Oral district’s Tasal commune. It also included more than 170ha in the commune’s Khtes village.

“These locations are state forest land which were cleared and encroached on for personal ownership. They are within the natural protected area of the Cardamom Mountains National Park in Kampong Speu province,” he said.

The governor gave offenders 30 days to protest.

Samnang said the provincial and district authorities, office of the Cardamom Mountains National Park and a working group would eliminate illegal clearing of state land and people must enforce the order.

Chea Hean, director of the environmental watchdog Anti-Corruption, Natural Resource Protection and Civil Rights Protection, said on May 12 that he would submit a request to the government asking for a provincial task force to implement the order.

He said the provincial administration had issued the order, but law enforcement officials have not implemented it, so offenders continue to occupy state land.

“Offenders use pictures of crops such as coconut and banana trees as proof they have been on the land for a long time. They then plant mature crops on the land. After one to two years, they will claim they have lived on the land for a long time and demand legal ownership,” he said.

He noted that as the government and officials throughout the country were occupied with the ongoing fight against Covid-19, offenders took advantage of the situation and occupied state land.

Hean called on the provincial authorities to continue enforcing legal measures against intruders to deter them from grabbing state land.