A prominent environmental watchdog head has sent a letter to Kampong Speu provincial governor Vei Samnang requesting he reclaim 1,500ha that was encroached on in Oral district’s Tasal commune as state property.

Chea Hean, the director of the NGO Anti-Corruption, Natural Resource Protection and Civil Rights Protection (ACNCIPO), said in his November 16 letter that his officials went to observe the location in the Cardamom Mountain National Park on October 10 and found illegal occupation of the land.

Hean said because the park is protected by a royal decree, the provincial governor has to look into the issue and reclaim the forest land.

He said on November 17 that a powerful person named Yoeun Yoeut, whom he said is a government adviser, had mobilised 150 families to encroach on forest land for private ownership.

Yoeut, he said, allegedly faked legal documents without the knowledge of local authorities.

“I have a plan to file a complaint to the court too, but the court did not accept all my complaints. It threw this task to other institutions. I then decided to send a request to the provincial governor first. If there is no solution, I will send a letter to Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng to do what it takes to retrieve the land,” he said.

The Post could not contact Samnang for comment.

Provincial Department of Environment deputy director Nov Nak said he was not aware of Hean’s request, but claimed there is no land encroachment in the area.

“In the past, some people encroached on land in nearby areas. They secretly widened forest land border bit by bit, but there is no [land grabbing] on a large scale,” Nak said.

Yoeut is known to be the owner of 1,500ha in Tasal commune.

The Post could not find a source to contact Yoeut for comment on this case.

Tasal commune chief Dul Sokhom confirmed that land in his commune is located in Cardamom Mountain National Park, south central of the Tonle Sap Lake and is protected by a royal decree.

“I did not sign to acknowledge or grant permission to anyone regarding the land because it is state land. There is a royal decree to protect it and I’ve also informed local people to not encroach on it, but some would not listen to the authorities.

“I have not issued any land ownership certificate. I support Hean that he made a complaint requesting the authorities take back the land,” Sokhom said.