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Two nabbed for inciting land grab

Pech Sotheary / Khmer Times Share:
Villagers discuss the dispute with authorities. Fresh News

Preah Sihanouk provincial police on Saturday detained two men suspected of inciting and leading 30 people to occupy land in Ream National Park.

Neth Pheaktra, Environment Ministry spokesman, yesterday identified them as Sip Ponlork, from Battambang province’s Ek Phnom district, and Tang Ken, living in Preah Sihanouk province’s Prey Nop district.

“The two men encroached on state land and were arrested by police for violating the Law on Protected Areas on Saturday afternoon,” he said. “They are being detained for questioning before being sent to court for further action.”

Mr Pheaktra said that police and park rangers had previously advised the group of 30 people to leave the land they had encroached on in the forest reserve in Prey Nop district’s Ream commune.

He said Mr Ponlork and Mr Ken had been told to remove cottages they had built but they refused to comply, leading to their arrests.

The Ream area, covering 150,000 hectares, was established as Ream National Park by a Royal Decree in 1993.

Mr Pheaktra also appealed to all those who have encroached into the park’s land or are illegally buying or selling land in it to stop such activities immediately or face legal action.

Authorities have ordered the structures be removed. Fresh News

“If people actually lack land, please submit a request for a social land concession from local authorities instead of encroaching and grabbing state land illegally,” he said. “Those who violate the law will face legal action.”

Samut Sothearith, provincial environment department director, yesterday said the department is preparing a case against Mr Ponlork and Mr Ken and plans to send them to the provincial court today.

“The two suspects confessed that they led about 30 people to clear and encroach on land in 18 hectares of the forest area,” he said. “We are currently searching for others who commit crimes to violate and grab state land or land in protected areas, to be punished according to the law.”

Also in the province, 11 people were arrested earlier this month by provincial military police and sent to court over allegations that they incited villagers to occupy state and private land.

Ae Sophos, head of the Cambodia for Confederation Development Association, and 10 others were accused of being involved in the incitement of villagers by asking them to submit their thumbprints in order to occupy state and private land in Prey Nop district’s Bit Traing commune.

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