Cham Villagers Cutting Forest Village

At least 1,000 hectares of forest in Kompong Cham province have been clear-cut by ethnic Cham villagers, provincial deputy director of agriculture Heang Benyik said Sunday. The villagers have cleared the forests to create farmland, but could be forced from the new settlements by local police, he said.

About 200 families originally from Kratie’s Chhlong district have cut swaths of forest land in Kompong Cham’s Memot and Dambe districts, said Heang Benyik. Though he has banned the cutting of trees, the practice has continued, he said. The villagers left their old homes, built on river banks, after they were destroyed by erosion, he said.

Villagers have been moving to Memot and Dambe since 1996. Some villagers sell plots of land after it has been cleared. The villagers typically sell the larger logs and burn the smaller ones.

Provincial Land Title Officer Tay Sophy said the land was granted several years ago to local police officers by Hun Neang, the former governor of Kompong Cham, he said. But Heang Benyik said local police officers had sold permits to villagers for $200 to $300 each.

Yim Bun Teth, secretary of Kompong Cham local government, said authorities are looking for areas where the villagers could be relocated.


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