A former district police chief in Koh Kong province is under investigation for allegedly bulldozing 87 hectares of forest around the Dang Peng multiuse protected area.
Koh Kong deputy governor Sok Sothy said on Wednesday that the provincial administration had ordered an investigation against ex-Sre Ambel district police chief Mar Ty.
However, Ty owned the 87 hectares of forestry land in Dang Peng commune after buying it from local residents. He had simply not asked for permission from authorities, Sothy said. “Now, we’re telling him to ask for permission,” the deputy governor said.
Ty could not be reached for comment.
Koh Koh is currently in the midst of a massive land reclassification initiative targeting 127,000 hectares of protected areas, or more than 11 percent of the province’s total area. In Sre Ambel and surrounding areas, the Dang Peng multiuse area is slated to lose 19,651 hectares as part of the initiative.
Though the program followed Prime Minister Hun Sen’s orders to grant protected land to poor families, local residents are wary about receiving any land themselves, fearing instead that it will be snapped up by the wealthy.
Human rights group Adhoc’s Koh Kong coordinator, Hour In, said that if the former district police chief was clearing protected land, it should not matter whether he had bought it from locals.
“We see that the implementation is different between the rich and the common people. Therefore, we would like to ask the authorities to investigate this case thoroughly so that the law can be applied equally to prevent the rich from occupying a large amount of land without caring about protected areas,” In said. Koh Kong was losing forests in many areas, and authorities should take strict action against any illegal clearing, he said.