While the Ratanakkiri provincial administration will not recognise illegal land transactions in the province’s protected areas, an NGO says its action is not effective and forest crimes continue unabated.
The administration’s letter dated October 19 and obtained by The Post on Monday came after Minister of Interior Sar Kheng strongly criticised forestry laws and lashed out on senior officers for allowing illegal timber trafficking under the pretense of clearing the bottom of the Lower Sesan II hydropower dam.
The administration warned that all land transfer documents pertaining to the protected natural area will become null and void in accordance with the law.
The letter also warned that authorities will take action against perpetrators who illegally clear forest land to build houses, stalls or warehouses, or take land as personal property in protected areas such as Virachey National Park, Lumphat Wildlife Sanctuary, O’Yadav National Park, Veun Sai-Siem Pang Conservation Area and Yeak Laom Lake Protected Area.
“All land clearing to build houses or warehouses, or to take ownership is illegal in protected natural areas and will be punished according to the law,” the letter said.
Forest, Wildlife and Natural Resources Protection Organisation director Touch Nora said he welcomed the Ratanakkiri provincial administration’s plan to nullify all sales-and-purchase letters.
However, he claimed, the action will not be effective.
“We see that forest crimes are not going down. Illegal forest clearing continues to go up in certain provinces such as Mondulkiri."
“Actions by the authorities are not effective because officers at the lower level collude with traders and powerful individuals,” Nora said.
If the announcement was effective, it would help protect, maintain and preserve natural resources such as wildlife sanctuaries, prevent global warming and benefit the local people.
Ministry of Interior secretary of state Sork Setha ordered the Ratanakkiri, Mondulkiri and Stung Treng provincial authorities in late August to take timely, effective action against illegal timber trafficking.