The Ministry of Environment is investigating the case of people covertly and illegally encroaching on and occupying land in Preah Monivong Bokor National Park. The case prompted environment minister Say Sam Al to inspect the disputed area on July 26.
Ministry spokesman Neth Pheaktra said on July 27 that the minister led a delegation joined by the Kampot provincial governor and relevant specialists to inspect work in the park with the aim to improve the effectiveness of protecting and conserving natural protected areas.
He said the inspection revealed that land encroachment on state land in the park had occurred many times from July 2020 to June this year.
“The environment ministry noticed that 192 plots of state land were illegally occupied. The land covers more than 700ha in eight communes in Chhouk and Teuk Chhou districts of Kampot town,” he said.
Pheaktra said rangers who patrolled the area confirmed that the recent encroachment and occupation was on land that people had not depended on for a long time. Environmental officials in Kampot reported to the provincial administration so officials can confiscate the land.
Provincial governor Cheav Tay said the national park is under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Environment by sub-decree, while the provincial administration merely accompanied the minister to inspect the encroachment site.
But he stressed that those who broke the law by encroaching on the land will be prosecuted in accordance with the law.
“The environment ministry is responsible for taking action and implementing legal procedures,” he said.
Pheaktra said the ministry had discovered that some commune chiefs in Chhouk and Teuk Chhou districts had issued documents repealing the sale and purchase of land and the transfer of land titles in natural protected areas.
This was an important step in preventing land encroachment and occupation. Encroaching on, occupying, purchasing, selling or transferring land ownership in national parks or wildlife sanctuaries was illegal, he said.
Land in natural protected areas belongs to the state and requires government approval to be used.