Law enforcement ineffective in Kampong Speu land grab case, says NGO

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Civil society organisation ACNCIPO head Chea Hean claimed environment officials conspired with perpetrators of a 100ha land grab in Oral Wildlife Sanctuary by allowing them to plant trees. CHEA HEAN VIA FACEBOOK

Civil society organisation ACNCIPO urged Kampong Speu provincial governor Vei Samnang to enforce a warrant to seize 100ha in the Oral Wildlife Sanctuary that was grabbed and restore its status as state property.

ACNCIPO head Chea Hean claimed environment officials did not implement the seizure warrant but instead conspired with perpetrators by allowing them to plant trees on the land.

But environment officials denied the accusation and said it was baseless.

Hean said on Tuesday that last year, the provincial hall and the Ministry of Environment issued a warrant to seize more than 100ha in Oral Wildlife Sanctuary in Sre Kin village, Trapaing Chor commune and restore its status after it was allegedly grabbed by Sieng Samen, Ou Samrach Chesda, Koul Vichet and other perpetrators.

To date, the authorities had not implemented the warrant and the perpetrators had taken possession of the land as a private property to plant mango, jackfruit and coconut trees.

“When [the authorities] did not implement the warrant and land grabbers continue their agriculture activities, it could become a problem in the future. This is because if the warrant is only implemented during the time to harvest the crops, the land grabbers might file a lawsuit for destroying their property.

“In such a possible scenario, it would be an obstacle for the authorities to carry out law enforcement,” said Hean.

He said it is the fault of the provincial administration and the ministry for being careless in not implementing the seizure warrant to return the land’s status.

Hean had also submitted a letter on October 7 to Samnang, which requested the provincial governor to implement the warrant by assigning provincial environment officials in cooperation with relevant authorities to seize the land.

He said the perpetrators are planning to sell the land plots in the wildlife sanctuary.

In response to Hean’s claims, Samnang said he will assign technical officials in cooperation with the armed forces to check the location. However, he could not confirm when the inspection will be carried out as he said the province lacked officials and funds to carry out law enforcement.

Nonetheless, the provincial governor vowed that even if crops had been planted on the land, the provincial administration will not issue private land title to the perpetrators.

Meanwhile, the director of the provincial department of environment Em Sokun said claims made by Hean were not backed by evidence.

He said while Hean alleged that the provincial administration and the ministry had issued a warrant to seize the land, the alleged perpetrators were locals living near the related area.

Sokun also said that environment officials had always visited the area to remove crops planted on the conservation land.

At press time, The Post could not contact Sieng Samen, Ou Samrach Chesda, Koul Vichet and other individuals accused of planning to sell the land for comments.

Hean said there are land grabbing activities involving thousands of hectares on conservation land in the Oral Wildlife Sanctuary, and that the authorities had issued seizure warrants. However, relevant law enforcement action seemed ineffective as the perpetrators were still in possession of the plots.

In the meantime, Samnang and Sokun said more letters to seize encroached land in the sanctuary will be issued.