Police in Mondulkiri province said four men were arrested suspected of clearing and encroaching the state owned Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary in O’Raing district.
Lieutenant Colonel Bou Bunchheat, chief of district police, yesterday said the arrest happened Tuesday afternoon as the four were allegedly clearing parts of the forest in Sen Monorom commune’s Pu Zam village in order to plant crops.
“The area is a wildlife sanctuary, but some people who live around the area have prepared parts of the forest land for farming,” Lt Gen Bunchheat said. “The four went to the protected area to farm, and rangers cooperated with police to arrest them.”
He identified the four as Pok Sar, Po Teur, Vorng Ra and Ros Pok. Lt Gen Bunchheat noted that the four are currently detained at the sanctuary’s headquarters to be questioned.
Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary director Din Bunthoeun could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Neth Pheaktra, spokesman for the Environment Ministry, yesterday said that market prices for lands in the Kingdom have increased over the years, prompting brokers to use villagers to encroach and occupy protected lands.
“Those perpetrators have cheated innocent people by telling them to grab state land or land already belonging to someone else in order to sell it at a lower price,” Mr Pheaktra said. “Sometimes, they encourage villagers to build small huts and plant crops so that ownership can be claimed by saying that the land has been occupied for a long time.”
Regarding this case, Mr Pheaktra said villagers should not be deceived or cheated by the brokers. He also called for the clearance and encroachment of state lands to stop.
“People please be careful before buying and selling land,” he said. “The land could belong to the state or someone else.”
Mr Pheaktra noted that police are now investigating the case and are looking to identify the brokers.
Additionally, authorities in Siem Reap province on Saturday detained more than two dozen people suspected of illegal land occupation and encroachment in Banteay Srey district’s Rom Chek commune.
The suspects were educated and made to sign a contract promising to stop grabbing land before they were released.