Speaking at a tree planting ceremony in Preah Vihear province on Friday, May 18, Prime Minister Hun Sen called on authorities to prevent unwarranted land clearing; and he acknowledged that people with influence and money use commoners to do the dirty work.
The premier said that it is difficult to prevent land clearing if there is population growth – they require fields to grow food – but it must be contained or the forests will be destroyed.
He urged the Agriculture Ministry and provincial authorities to re-evaluate which areas are protected, and which are available for social land distribution to the people. He also sees the need to educate people in methods of intensive agricultural cultivation to reduce the need for new fields.
“We cannot prevent it [land clearing], but each province must know exactly which areas can be given to the citizens for cultivation. We can’t just let them cut [trees to clear the land] anywhere they want to.”
He knows that the well-to-do or influential hire the less fortunate to clear away the forest and occupy the land, thus shielding the real perpetrators from view. “They [the fat cats] hire people to clear the forest for $1000 to $2000 per hectare. When there is a problem it is with them, but the empowered and rich are in the background and are overlooked.”
He also is aware that certain nationals, after receiving land from the government, hand it over to wealthy and empowered people – and then move to another province to play the same game again.