100,000 Hectares of Forest Lost Since 1999

At a national workshop on forest land encroachment Monday, environmental officials and watchdogs expressed their concern over the systematic usurping of Cambodian forests. 

The workshop was convened to discuss and draw attention to the illegal clearing of forests for farming or other personal use.

Minister of Agriculture Chan Sarun said results would be “disastrous” if action is not taken to stem the encroachment. There is “anarchy in the forestry sector, especially encroaching on forested land, which has been most dangerous for Cambodia and makes us lose natural resources and makes us vulnerable to natural disasters,” such as flooding, he said.

Chan Sarun said encroachers often clear forested land of timber under the auspices of development or private ownership.

With logging in forestry concessions on hold since a moratorium was imposed in January 2002, many observers fear that land concessions may provide a loophole for logging businesses.

Ty Sokhun, the ministry’s For­es­­try Department director, also said encroachment oc­curred in for­ests, forest concessions, protected areas and plantations. By the depart­ment’s account, he said, 100,000 hectares of forest have been usurped since 1999. “Land en­croachment has happened everywhere, and at least 20,000 hec­tares of forest is en­croached upon each year,” he said.

The Forestry Department estimates that the highest prevalence of encroachment occurs in Ban­teay Meanchey province, with 14,562 hectares encroached upon since 1999.


Oddar Meanchey province was a close second with 14,000 hectares, followed by Kampot province with 11,292 hectares and Preah Vihear province with 10, 624 hectares.

Officials at the seminar recommended that law enforcement and education be stepped up, boundaries be erected, protected lands be registered and more clearly demarcated and that more land classifications be made.

At the seminar, David Mead, country director for Conservation International, revealed the results of the NGO’s case study in Thma Bang district, Koh Kong province.

Mead told the seminar that land encroachment there is the result of military requisition of land, the usurping of land by the private sector for commercial agricultural purposes or perpetrated by outsiders or families from other provinces.

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