ACNCIPO director Chea Hean on Tuesday appeared in the Kampong Speu Provincial Court as a plaintiff after filing a complaint against five people for illegally clearing more than 400ha in the Phnom Aural Wildlife Sanctuary in Trapaing Chor commune’s Sre Kin Village in Oral district.

Hean told The Post on Tuesday that he accused Soeun Nak, Mok Man, Mok Meth, Khieu Saroeun and village chief Im Sorn of clearing the land in his complaint dated June 15. All of them reside in Sre Kin.

He said the five had incited 38 families to use machinery to clear the land and erect a fence before selling it to traders.

Sorn, he said, was persuaded by the other four suspects to create land certificates.

“I filed the complaint against the five for attempting to obstruct experts from carrying out their mission and for clearing forest land illegally. I demand 100 million riel ($24,405) in compensation and ask that the five individuals be brought to justice,” Hean said.

Sorn claimed on Tuesday that he is due in court on Wednesday and he intends to appear. But he emphasised that the accusation against him was baseless and there was no evidence.

“I have nothing to do with the land in the area and the accusation against me is untrue. I am willing to be punished by law if I was involved with the land.

“Let Hean file a complaint against me. I am not afraid of appearing in court because I don’t know the matter. I don’t depend on legal representation to defend me,” Sorn said.

Trapaing Chor commune chief Tep Nem said on Tuesday that land within the Phnom Aural Wildlife Sanctuary had been encroached on by a small number of citizens. But he had not agreed to register the land for the trespassers.

Nem said: “I received the news from citizens saying that Sre Kin village chief Im Sorn encouraged citizens to encroach on the land. I told them on several occasions not to touch land that belongs to the State.

“If they still turn a deaf ear to my words, then there is little I can do. I will let the court handle the case.”

The complaint said ACNCIPO officials on March 5 travelled to the O’pongro area in the village and found Mok Man, Mok Meth and Khieu Saroeun clearing 112ha of land illegally within the sanctuary.

On June 8, the organisation requested provincial environment officials to mark land boundaries to reclaim the location as State land.

The complaint said on June 11, the provincial Department of Environment had assigned provincial environment experts to mark the boundaries.

But Nak and 10 other conspirators started taking pictures of the officials’ cars and issuing threats to both government and ACNCIPO officials.