A road construction project in Mondulkiri province has been suspended after authorities discovered the district governor who initated the project did not seek approval.
Sok Kheang, director of the provincial agriculture, forestry and fisheries department, yesterday said provincial Governor Svay Sam Eang on Tuesday ordered his subordinates to temporarily prevent heavy equipment from paving the road and clearing trees in Pou Raing village.
Mr Kheang noted that district Governor Siek Mony was summoned by Mr Sam Eang for allegedly clearing the land without permission from the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry and the Provincial Hall.
“A working group has been working on this case since Tuesday evening following the order from the provincial governor,” he said. “We can’t provide any details yet, as we are waiting for the investigation into this case first.”
Mr Sam Eang could not be reached for comment yesterday. Deputy Governors Yim Lux and Peng Sambath said they were not aware of the case.
The road is located in the province’s Sen Monorom commune in O’Raing district. If completed, the road would penetrate the Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary, residents said.
Mr Mony yesterday denied the allegations and said the project aimed to renovate an old road.
“It’s an old road that existed a long time ago, and we were renovating it to make it easier for people to travel between Sen Monorom to Dak Dam commune,” he said. “In the past, when people in Dak Dam commune wanted to access public services at the district administration [office], they had to travel nearly 50 kilometres.”
Mr Mony said he acknowledged that he did not ask permission from Provincial Hall before running the project, adding that he met with members of local communities to discuss it. However, he noted that he will suspend all activity pending permission from Provincial Hall.
Kroeung Tola, a representative of an indigenous Mondulkiri community, yesterday said residents in the area are concerned about road construction because it could lead to land encroachment at the Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary.
“The road project, that had just started clearing land, was probably initiated so he [Mr Mony] could have access to his land and the lands of others within the forest,” Mr Tola said. “The people are concerned that if there is a road, it will create an opportunity to those who are striving to grab land in the protected area.”