Preah Sihanouk provincial Governor Kuoch Chamroeun yesterday warned that action will be taken against those who encroach upon the Kbal Chhay waterfall area, which is a fresh water source for Sihanoukville.
Land Management Ministry undersecretary of state Siek Vanna yesterday led a meeting between officials from the Provincial Hall, provincial department of land management, environment department and agriculture department.
During the meeting, Mr Chamroeun urged ministry, provincial and local officials to speed up the work on boundary demarcation at the waterfall. He also ordered officials to monitor and measure the size of land plots in areas that have been encroached upon.
A Provincial Hall report on the meeting noted that technical working groups have been tasked with putting up boundary demarcation poles around the waterfall to foil attempts by opportunists to encroach into the protected area.
“The technical working group needs to measure how much state land has been occupied so that we can take action,” Mr Chamroeun said. “If the plots are not registered land yet, they never will be and those who claim to own them have to remove the fences erected on state land.”
Mr Chamroeun also ordered officials to warn landowners, who have expanded their plots by encroaching into state land, to remove their fences or face action.
“We need to inform them to remove the fences by themselves and if they do not cooperate with our working group, we can revoke their land certificates,” he noted. “Please stop any encroachment on state land.”
Provincial Hall spokesman Kheang Phearom yesterday said provincial authorities are paying strict attention to encroachment issues and will not allow anyone to acquire land at the waterfall.
“Regarding this issue we used to warn offenders to stop their activities and have cracked down on land encroachments,” he said. “We will continue our enforcement activities.”
However, Mr Phearom was unable to provide details on how much land has been encroached upon so far.
In May this year, the provincial court sentenced two people to 18 months in prison each after they were found guilty of encroaching into the protected area.
Cheap Sotheary, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, yesterday said the land ownership issue at Kbal Chhay is a “long standing conflict” that needs goodwill to resolve.
She said that disputes occur because local officials illegally sell plots of land and the owners then dispute any action taken against them.
Ms Sotheary urged the provincial administration to take action against officials who collude to sell state land.
“There will no encroachment if officials do not collude with each other to sell state land,” she noted. “If the authorities are going to take action on ordinary people, they must also take action against the corrupt officials.”