The Environment Ministry over the weekend reiterated that encroachment upon or the sale of protected land is illegal, noting that more than 20 people have been arrested this year over alleged land grabbing.
Environment Minister Say Samal on Saturday posted on his Facebook account stressing that land grabbing is against the Land Law and Protected Areas Law.
“Any land in a protected area belongs to the government, and its use and distribution can only be done with approval from the government,” he said. “So, no one has the right to occupy, sell, transfer or confirm ownership of land in a protected area.”
Expanding on what the minister has said, Environment Ministry spokesman Neth Pheaktra yesterday noted that more than 20 people so far this year have been arrested in cases related to land grabbing in protected areas, including cases in Preah Sihanouk, Preah Vihear, Kampong Thom, Koh Kong and Kampong Speu provinces.
“The ministry denies all documents relating to all kinds of illegal land occupation of national parks, wildlife sanctuaries or protected areas,” he said. “And those who are illegally occupying land have to immediately stop all activities, including land clearing and any construction.”
“They must remove all construction and return the land back to the Environment Ministry or face legal action,” he added.
Mr Pheaktra said that the ministry continues to increase patrols across protected areas to prevent any illegal activities, noting that the ministry employs 1,220 rangers for daily patrols.
He noted that Cambodia has about 7.5 million hectares of protected areas and wildlife sanctuaries.
Chea Hean, director of the Natural Resource and Wildlife Preservation Organisation, yesterday said that land grabbing cases continue to happen despite the ministry’s efforts to disseminate the law and enforce the law.
He noted that among vulnerable areas include Kampong Speu province’s Phnom Oral Wildlife Sanctuary and Kirirom National Park.
“Therefore, the ministry please send officials to investigate in those areas and take legal measures in accordance with the Protected Areas Law and Anti-Corruption Law, in particular for any perpetrators and officials who could be involved,” Mr Hean said.
From August 4 to 16, 41 Cambodian and Thai rangers conducted joint training on natural resources crime prevention, which took place in protected areas in the border areas of the two countries, namely in the Klang Dong area of Ta Phraya National Park in Ta Phraya district, Sa Kaeo province in Thailand, and the Banteay Chhmar protected area in Banteay Meanchey province’s Thma Puok district.
Yim Ly, Banteay Meanchey Provincial Environment Department director, on Friday said that the training focused on wildlife and forest conservation, crime monitoring and prevention, GPS and satellite skills.
“The training also aimed to strengthen cooperation in the protection of natural resources and prevention of natural resource crimes along the border,” he said.
Wit Taya, deputy director-general in charge of the First Region of Thailand’s Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, also said on Friday that the training was conducted in the framework of a five-year cooperation plan after the rangers of the two countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation to take action in cross-border biodiversity protection and conservation in early 2018.