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.