The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries yesterday said that land grabbing still continues to threaten forests, but the situation is better than last year.
According to an annual report read by Agriculture Minister Veng Sakhon during a meeting yesterday, land-grabbing activities have continued unabated.
“Illegal land-grabbing activities within forests and flooded forests have continued to the present, but the situation seems to be better than last year,” he said.
Mr Sakhon said that in 2017, the ministry cracked down on 1,428 cases related to forest crimes including illegal logging, hunting and land grabbing. The number of cases decreased by 4.16 percent compared with 2016, he noted.
Prime Minister Hun Sen, who also attended the meeting, urged the ministry to cooperate with provincial authorities and armed forces to investigate and crack down on all land grabbing, especially within protected forests.
Mr Hun Sen reiterated that the government has not granted any new economic land concessions.
In February, the premier ordered the Koh Kong provincial governor to clarify reports that state mangrove forests in the province were grabbed and filled with sand to create land for development.
Last month, eight environmental organisations asked the government to take immediate action against loggers and land speculators in a wildlife sanctuary in Preah Vihear province, worrying that more land will be encroached upon.
The organisations said they were very concerned about logging and poaching happening in the Phnom Tnout Wildlife Sanctuary which was created by the government in August 2017.
Ken Sereyratha, Wildlife Conservation Society country director, said that the government’s attention to forest protection has increased if compared to previous years.
Mr Sereyratha added that land grabbing is usually carried out by newcomers and local villagers expanding their cultivated land.
“Especially the newcomers, they incite other people to grab forest land for cultivation and their own interests,” he said, adding that this issue impacts wildlife and ecosystems.
Mr Sereyratha urged the government to enhance law enforcement, and complete land registration as soon as possible in order to have a database for land management.