Gov’t Officials Ordered To Return Forest Land

The Council of Ministers issued a notice July 5 ordering all government officials to return state forest land they have claimed as their own, or face punishment. A copy of the directive, signed by Council of Ministers Secretary of State Bun Uy, was obtained Wednesday.

“Officials of the government, national assembly, senate, court, local authorities, and members of the armed forces who clear forest land for their personal ownership, must hand it over to the state to allow the Forestry Administration to replant trees,” the directive reads. “If they do not agree, they have two choices: either they will face dismissal from their position and face the court according to the law, or they must pay $1,000 per hectare to the state.”

A senior official with the Council said Wednesday said the directive was “better than doing nothing.

“We will also check and investigate the work,” of those im­ple­ment­ing the order, he said.

But another Council official was skeptical that the directive will be heeded. “I don’t think they can take land back from powerful officials,” he said.

The Land Management Minis­try will request land title documents related to forest land from provincial and municipal authorities. The Forestry Administration has been ordered to use the information to crack down according to the law.

Eang Savet, the deputy chief of the Forestry Administration for the Southern Tonle Sap region, said he received the notice two weeks ago and has passed it on. “Now we have this document and it is a weapon to help us work effectively.”

Human rights group Adhoc Chief Investigator Pen Bunna said the notice does not go far enough, and may be used to circumvent harsher punishments already in the law for those who log public land.


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