Official: Land Being Resold by Wealthy People

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.


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