The Bunong indigenous communities in Mondulkiri province expressed scepticism on Monday that provincial governor Svay Sam Eang would be able to stop local authorities from colluding in forestry crimes.
Kroeung Tola, a representative of the Bou Sra community in Pech Chreada district, told The Post on Sunday that Sam Eang had pledged on many occasions to protect natural resources in the province, but his promises had not been translated into action.
He said Sam Eang had failed to keep his word because most loggers were found to be relatives of the powerful.
“He used to say that if anyone transports timber without permits, he would take action. But he just made empty promises. He did take some measures before, but when the perpetrators turned out to be his friends or close relations, he could not do anything. That has enabled logging to persist,” Tola alleged.
The Facebook page of the provincial hall shows that Sam Eang made his pledge during an inauguration ceremony of the new O’Raing district governor on Thursday when he warned officials against colluding in logging and community land grabbing.
“Community land is not owned by anyone. Claiming community land for private ownership or sale to dealers is against the law and will be responded to with legal action,” he said.
The governor said registration of community land was made with the participation of villagers in the community and all relevant authorities.
The size and location of the land, he said, was also clearly determined and recognised by the Ministry of Interior. After registration, the land can only be used for collective interests to ensure sustainable harvests of forestry products and must be maintained for the next generations.
“The first wildlife sanctuary that will run out of forest cover is Phnom Nam Lyr. The next which is moving toward destruction is Phnom Prich, where many companies are destroying the forest for timber to be sold in Vietnam instead of developing anything [as per concession contracts],” he said.
Mondulkiri provincial hall spokesman Sok Sera said the authorities will probe the investigation of community land grabbing.
“The governor will soon assign a working group to conduct an inspection to see which land belongs to the state and which are owned by the villagers,” he said.