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Land disputes solved, flooded forest returned in Kampong Chhnang

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Kampong Chhnang governor Sun Sovannarith holds a conference on commune development progress. KAMPONG CHHNANG ADMINISTRATION

Land disputes solved, flooded forest returned in Kampong Chhnang

In December, the Kampong Chhnang Provincial Administration had resolved nearly 600 land disputes throughout the province and reclaimed over 30,000ha of flooded forest land as state property, according to governor Sun Sovanrith.

Sovanrith provided the figures during a news conference held to review the goals set by the provincial administration and progress made by its 71 communes at the Office of the Council of Ministers on January 25.

He said that authorities at the provincial level had set up dispute resolution teams to solve people’s problems at the local level. The teams were efficient and travelled to the scenes of disputes, so people did not have to spend time and money travelling to court.

In December, the resolution teams had made extra-judicial dispute settlements in nearly 600 of the more than 700 current cases across eight towns and districts, he said.

Sovanrith also announced that 7,531 people in the province had voluntarily returned 30,589ha of land in Zone 3 of the Tonle Sap Lake to the state.

He added that during the campaign to reclaim the flooded forest land, the authorities had completely dismantled 55 illegal cottages and removed 223 illegal posts in the zone.

“These operations are for the benefit of the Kingdom’s estimated population of 16 million. If we leave it to powerful officials and big business to destroy, we are mistreating the people, and taking away a resource that should be enjoyed by all.

“What we are now doing is returning the benefits of the flooded forest land to the people. We will restore the fish yield, and especially the benefits to tourism that this land provides,” he said.

He added that the provincial administration had replanted more than 100,000 trees, including more than 80,000 palm trees, in the reclaimed areas along the border around Zones 2 and 3 of the lake and it had also planted more than 20,000 trees in flooded forests.

Sovanrith gave people just two more weeks to voluntarily return flooded forest land to local authorities if they wanted to avoid facing tough legal measures.

On November 28, Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered that relevant ministries and institutions and provincial governors adjacent to Tonle Sap take a tougher stance against illegal logging and encroachment on the flooded forests of the lake.

San Chey, executive director of the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability, said the Tonle Sap Lake issues are problems shared by all Cambodians because of its fish population and position as the most important ecosystem in the nation.

The encroachment on of flooded forest land is destroying the common interests of all Cambodians, he said. Clear measures and the participation of all parties were required, especially that of the general population.

“I understand why some people think the Kampong Chhnang provincial administration’s response is a case of too little, too late. The enforcement of these laws came only after the intervention of the Prime Minister. The size of the encroachment is already significant,” he said.

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