Mondulkiri officials to fight logging

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
A Mondulkiri provincial sub-committee to crack down on forestry crimes will begin their duties by reviewing land grab cases. GRK PAGE

The Ministry of Agriculture has established a Mondulkiri provincial sub-committee to prevent, reduce and crack down on forest land grabs, clearing and encroachment.

The Ministry of Agriculture said in a press release that the provincial sub-committee is chaired by Mondulkiri provincial governor Svay Sam Eang while provincial Department of Agriculture director Song Kheang takes on the role of operations secretary.

The working group will carry out major roles, such as searching for masterminds and ringleaders behind illegal grabbing, razing, clearing and encroachment on forest land. This also includes issuing warrants to seize property that was wrongfully seized as state property.

The press release said: “Members of this provincial sub-committee must be responsible in their respective framework and attend meetings at the request of the chair.

“This sub-committee has a secretariat as its aide at the provincial Department of Agriculture and has the right to use the stamp of the provincial administration to carry out its tasks.”

Mondulkiri Provincial Hall spokesman Sok Sera told The Post on Monday that the creation of the sub-committee is to prevent officers from diverting responsibility to each other and to create a joint force to stop the illegal grabbing of forest land.

He claimed that the sub-committee’s working group will take immediate action to prevent forest land grabbing. There will also be a review of private property that was seized to become state land in the past. He said: “We will review cases based on the circumstances surrounding the land, their legality and if there is any irregularity, we will seize it to be state property.”

In July, Sam Eang issued an order to seize 1,754ha of land as state property from Seng Sovannara who was then an undersecretary of state of the Ministry of Justice.

Villagers also accused him of issuing a letter to possess community land and wildlife sanctuaries in Koh Nhek and O’raing districts in Mondulkiri province.

But at that time, the Mondulkiri provincial authorities did not take legal action against Seng Sovannara as they claimed that the land that the letter to possess it had not been processed as yet.

Provincial Department of Agriculture director Song Kheang could not be reached for comment over the creation of this sub-committee.

Sera claimed that the Mondulkiri provincial sub-committee was created after the ministry created a national committee in June to prevent and crack down on forest land grabbing. He said all provinces will have to create the sub-committee.