Police Official Investigated Over Land-Clearing

A police official at Ratanakkiri pro­vince’s O’Yadaw district border checkpoint is being investigated over allegations of illegally clearing forested land, authorities said Sunday.

Provincial Deputy Governor Bou Lum said he had ordered district authorities to investigate the land clearing and plans to report the findings to the Ministry of Interior.

“We do not know if he clears forest trees on his land or on land belonging to the state,” he said. “I asked the local district authorities to report to me because I do no want to report misinformation.”

O’Yadaw District Governor Heng Bunthann said he did not know about the alleged illicit clearing in his district but vowed to investigate.

Ly Sovannara, a border soldier from the RCAF Battalion 102, alleged that Ngoun Sovanna, commander of the police border battalion 623, had bulldozed forested land about 2km from the district’s border checkpoint to Vietnam.

“One bulldozer was bulldozing and felling trees [Sunday] in forest land that’s banned by provincial authorities,” he said, adding that he could not say how many hectares had been stripped. Ngoun Sovanna rented three bulldozers from Viet­nam to clear the land, Ly Sovan­na­ra said.

Ngoun Sovanna could not be reached Sunday.

Provincial police deputy chief Hor Ang said he learned Sunday of Ngoun Sovanna’s alleged wrongdoing.

“I do not know how many hec­tares he owns, and if he has a land title or not and the right to clear these forest trees or not. But he claims he bought it from villagers,” Ngoun Sovanna said.

Hong Thea, deputy chief of the provincial Forestry Administration office, declined comment.

Pen Bonnar, provincial coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, alleged Sunday that, in the pro­vince, “Thousands of hectares of forest land are being cleared. The authorities have ignored it and they are also behind this.”

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