An estimated 43,000 hectares of forested land is being staked out to be resold by wealthy individuals in at least five northwestern provinces, a forestry official said Tuesday.
Vann Sophanna, chief of the forestry administration’s Northern Tonle Sap inspectorate, said those responsible have been hiring local villagers to clear the forest since October 2004 and some of the land has already been sold to businessmen and politicians.
A large chunk of the land, about 10,000 hectares, is located in Banteay Srei district in Siem Reap province, Vann Sophanna said. However, he said the so-called owners will be required to prove they own their land over the next few weeks or it will be seized.
“The commission will inspect their titles to see whether the land they have owned was taken from the forested land,” Vann Sophanna said.
That Saran, deputy governor of Banteay Srei district, said some forested land has been staked out for ownership, but he did not know whether any land titles had been issued.
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Hun Sen urged the rich and powerful to give up any forested land they have acquired illegally or encroached upon, otherwise they will face legal action.
His speech was met with skepticism from environmental NGOs.