Authorities have ordered villagers in Kompong Thom province’s Stong district to remove concrete property demarcation posts illegally installed in a protected area dedicated to the conservation of the Bengal Florican, district officials and bird conservationists said May 7.
“There are around 10 villagers who were incited by other individuals, who are trying to claim this protected land,” District Governor Hang Sothim said on May 7. “I asked them to remove them all by May 9, otherwise I will take action against them.”
Mr Sothim declined to elaborate on what he would do if the villagers persisted in their claims to the land.
Suon Kanil, chief of the Bengal Conservation Community, said locals erected 17 two-meter concrete posts on Wednesday.
“This happened because of instigation from land speculators,” Mr Kanil said, adding that the villagers had even “sold” 500 hectares of the protected land to a Siem Reap businessman a few years ago, although they did not own the property they offered for sale.
“They took money from the businessman and then they had no land to give him,” Mr Kanil said. “That’s why they tried to claim this land now,” he explained.
Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Chan Sarun signed a decree on Feb 8 to preserve 26,523 hectares of flooded land in Kompong Thom province for conservation efforts, including land for the Floricans. The area where the posts were installed is one of the two areas designated for the birds.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists the birds as critically endangered, their population is declining globally, and there are fewer than 1,500 living in Cambodia. The biggest threats to Floricans are loss of habitat and overhunting, according to the IUCN.