Controversial land developer Dy Po did not intentionally clear protected flooded forest in Kandal province, but was tricked by land brokers into buying the state property, Agriculture Ministry Secretary of State Chan Tong Yves told the National Assembly on Wednesday.
“It was confusion, he didn’t commit any offenses,” Chan Tong Yves said.
“Dy Po bought the land without knowing…[that land brokers] sold the flooded land to him,” he said.
Opposition lawmaker Son Chhay has for months waged a personal battle against what he claimed was Dy Po’s efforts to clear some 1,700 hectares of protected flooded forest in Kandal province’s Ponhea Leu district.
On March 14, Agricultural Minister Chan Sarun ordered Dy Po not to buy land from villagers in the district or employ any other means of encouraging them to destroy the flooded forest, which becomes an important fish breeding ground during the wet season.
Chan Tong Yves said that the Agriculture Ministry has filed legal complaints at the Kandal Provincial Court against two Kompong Os commune councilors involved in the forest’s destruction.
He added that Dy Po had cleared some flooded forest, but that it was land owned by villagers and that the clearance was done at their request.
“He didn’t do it for his own benefit,” Chan Tong Yves said.
Dy Po reiterated his innocence when contacted by telephone, and challenged Son Chhay to provide evidence that supported his allegations of wrongdoing.
“If Son Chhay has enough evidence that I destroyed flooded forest [in my land], file a complaint to the court,” he said.