Kampong Speu provincial authorities have warned against logging and forest land clearing in Suramarit-Kossamak National Park “Kirirom”. Authorities have also said they would enforce the law, but the clearing of the forest has continued even though authorities have issued a series of letters revoking land occupancy and ownership titles.
On March 15, the Chambak commune administration in Phnom Sruoch district revoked land ownership letters although the administration had issued letters to residents in the past. The administration had also issued another notice on March 19 instructing people to stop clearing park land.
Commune chief Chey Him declined to comment.
Provincial administration chief Keo Kuch Sey said the administration had revoked documents in the past for people who cleared land.
“We didn’t revoke the ownership letters. We just said that those who clear the land would have it reclaimed by the state. In the past, we had not have issued ownership cards to them either,” he said.
Provincial governor Vei Samnang said that the administration had tried to stop land clearing in the park, but offenders had still secretly encroached upon it despite their efforts.
“In addition to the crackdown, we have attempted to explain and instruct offenders regarding the law. We have told them everything, but offenders still secretly encroach on the land. However, we won’t back down. We will work to reclaim and protect the land,” he said.
Om Mak Theary, provincial director of environment, said specialists had followed the recommendations by the prime minister and permitted people to live on the land. But they had no rights to sell land or expand to other locations. Specialists have to take legal action against people who have recently cleared land for personal ownership.
“We have sent our environmental rangers to guard the land. If anyone plants poles, the rangers will go there to remove them. If there is encroachment of the land, we will take immediate measures so that there will not be a difficult problem to solve later,” he said.
Phnom Sruoch district governor Horn Piseth said that originally residents of Thmei and Chamkatae villages had cleared land for their livelihoods. These two villages were not in the annex of the district authorities and the provincial administration didn’t permit the district authorities to recognise the villages because residents could use the land for their livelihoods.
“Originally there were 44 families living on the land. But later, there were as many as 178 families in the area. Later, we don’t know how many families live there because the situation became chaotic. Our authorities don’t know how many families live there because the area is under the management of the department of environment,” he said.