The Environment Ministry yesterday warned that it will crack down and take legal action against those who illegally log or grab land in areas which are protected or designated for investment projects.
A ministry statement yesterday said that the illegal clearing of land for sale and settlement continue in protected areas despite efforts to curb such activities.
It noted that these illegal activities are mostly taking place in Preah Sihanouk province’s Ream National Park, Preah Monivong National Park, Kirirom National Park, the Lumphat Wildlife Sanctuary and the Sre Pok Wildlife Sanctuary.
The ministry statement said that there are individuals who use forged ownership documents to clear and use land which has been designated as protected sites or earmarked for use by companies which have permission from the government to develop the area.
“Stop all illegal activities including clearing, burning, encroaching and grabbing forest land,” the statement warned. “Using state land illegally to plant crops or build homes is also strictly prohibited.”
Chea Sam Ang, director-general of natural resources preservation and a ministry spokesman, yesterday declined to comment further.
Yesterday’s statement also said that the ministry will cooperate with other ministries, institutions and sub-national administrations to take strict measures to prevent land thefts and educate the public to respect laws over protected state land.
Preah Sihanouk Governor Yun Min said that encroachment and land grabs in Ream National Park are taking place because high land prices are driving some locals and outsiders to invest.
“There are also some cases where some people clash with each other to grab state or privately-owned land,” he said. “These include outsiders from provinces such as Prey Veng, Kampot and Koh Kong, and the authorities are trying very hard to stop them.”
Mr Min noted that provincial authorities will no longer take a soft approach by letting land grabbers off with a warning and will instead take them straight to court.