Settlers Threatening Jolie-Funded Forest Preserve

Land encroachment by more than 200 families is threatening a na­­ture preserve in Pailin municipality and Battambang province funded by US actress Angela Jolie, local of­ficials said Monday, prompt­ing au­thorities to prepare for their re­moval.

“More than 200 families are living in the conservation area, and more people are cutting trees” Pai­lin Deputy Governor Ieng Vuth said. “Some of them have lived in it for three or four years, but most are new settlers.”

Jolie has given the “Maddox Jo­lie Project,” named after her adopted Cambodian son, about $1.5 million to preserve 60,000 hectares of for­est in Pailin and Battambang province’s Samlot district, according to news reports.

“We will evacuate [settlers] from this area because it is affecting the con­servation,” Ieng Vuth said.

“If it is not stopped in time, it will be a difficult problem,” Mann Sorn, po­lice chief of Samlot district’s Bat­talion 823 said. “More people [means] more forest is de­stroyed.”

Ieng Vuth said authorities are pre­paring a letter to send to the settlers ordering them to leave, but many will have no place to go.

“We had prepared a place for them, but now other people are grab­bing it and live in it,” he said. “If we force them to leave, we pity them because they are poor and they have struggled to pave the way for their settlement.”

Srey Sobin, deputy governor of Bat­tambang province, said a joint Pailin-Battambang committee has de­cided to inform people about forest conservation.

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