Land-Grabbing, Logging Cases Are Piling Up

A hefty backlog of more than 800 land encroachment and illegal logging cases have been collecting dust in courts across the country since 2000, according to officials.

“More than 800 cases of forest land encroachment and logging have not been solved or tried by the courts in the country for six years,” said Ty Sokhun, Forestry Administration director.

“Our officials have sent complaints to the courts but nothing has happened up to today,” he said last week.

But court officials said that prosecutors and judges are unable to try the cases because of a lack of evidence.

“I checked with the prosecutors in the provinces and they told me that forestry officials sent them only confiscated materials but no people for trial,” said Han­rot Raken, general prosecutor of the Appeals Court.

Kong Sokhom, investigating judge for Kratie province, said that he has heard 30 forestry-related crimes this month alone, but not a single individual was present to stand trial.

“I wonder why forestry officials just confiscate materials but no one was found to be responsible? When they confiscated boats, even their owners on the water could not be arrested,” he said.

Forestry Administration officials say they are typically only able to confiscate timber and logging materials, and are often unable to detain the people conducting illicit businesses in forests.

Ros Kannara, deputy chief of the Forestry Administration’s legislation and litigation office, complained that the seized timber and machinery from the backlogged cases is steadily deteriorating because the courts have unnecessarily delayed cases going to trial.

“We want the courts to try all these cases. If they continue like this, confiscated materials, such as logs and machinery, will be damaged from sunlight and the rain,” he said.

“If the cases are tried sooner, the courts can return funds for the state.”




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