Four men were arrested and sent to the provincial police yesterday for questioning after they were caught clearing a flooded forest area in Kampong Chhnang province’s Kampong Leng district.
The suspects were identified as Hort Chantha, 23; Chhi Srouch 19; Von Raksmey 19; and Yon Thon, 20, all from Kampong Leng district’s Chranouk commune.
District police chief Colonel Pal Choeun said the suspects used tractors to clear the land, which was a state-owned area.
“They looked like they were working on a rice paddy but were actually clearing state land, and local residents reported the activity to the police,” Col Choeun said.
He added that police questioned the men, who admitted to using tractors to clear state land.
“No one escaped. Police arrested the four men who were clearing state land,” he said. “They knew the area was state-owned but they still cleared it.”
Colonel Chen Sophat, chief of the anti-economic crime office of Kampong Chhnang provincial police, said that his officers cooperated with Kampong Leng district police to apprehend the men who were plowing the area using three tractors.
“They were taken to the provincial police for questioning in accordance with the law,” Col Sophat said. “And police seized three tractors that they used to plough the land.”
Captain Chan Saroeun, Pralay Meas commune police chief, said that recently, some of the flooded forest areas in the district are being cleared for grabbing, despite police efforts in protecting the areas.
“The residents want to expand their land, and they encroach on flooded forest areas, which is illegal,” he said. “Those areas belong to the state and no one has the right to clear it.”
He added that local authorities have previously educated residents not to clear state-owned land.
“The people who clear the flooded forest areas are mostly local residents, and some from other districts,” Cap Saroeun said. “We always try to explain to them not to clear any land owned by the state.”
According to an Agriculture Ministry report published yesterday, there were 29 cases of forest clearings throughout the first six months of the year, encompassing 1,246 hectares.
The report further noted that officials continue to disseminate information on protected forest areas in order to prevent forest clearings, which is illegal.