Report: Nat’l Forests Logged, Built Upon

More than 200,000 hectares of the nation’s forest land was en­croached upon and deforested over the last year according to a recent government report, a forestry official said Sunday.

This figure comes from the September report of the National Committee to Combat Illegal For­est Land Clearing and Encroach­ment, and includes data collected in every province, said Ty Sokhun, director of forestry administration at the Ministry of Agriculture.

Those who have set up plantations on the land in question will be investigated by the committee and face penalties, he said.

Illegal owners of state land who have set up plantations will be fined $1,000 per hectare, and illegal owners of undeveloped state land will have the property confiscated, Ty Sokhun said.

The report shows that Kompong Speu, Banteay Meanchey and Siem Reap provinces are the worst affected, he added.

The encroachers are not landless people who need a place to live, Ty Sokhun said, but people living in other provinces and either looking to acquire more land or sell it to others.

Encroachment and deforestation are especially severe along roads, said Ieng Saveth, chief of the government’s Southern Tonle Sap Inspectorate.

Authorities have arrested some of the perpetrators, he said.

“We are having a headache with this problem because when we try to stop [the perpetrators], they show us their land papers from the commune,” Ieng Saveth said. He added that the forestry administration is working with the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Plann­ing and Construction to protect public forest land and work on a system to issue land titles.

Chuong Prasoeuth, acting chief of cabinet for Banteay Meanchey province, said Sunday that the province does not have a deforestation problem.

Some land in the area is being developed so that there will be new villages for refugees from the border area who have been living there since 1992, he said. The land marked off is not state land, al­though “forestry officials will say it is when they see it is full of green trees,” Chuong Prasoeuth added.


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