District police in Pursat’s Veal Veng district have accused a village chief of selling 2 hectares of state-owned forest land to three men from Battambang province, who then proceeded to clear the land of all the trees.
The accused, Ouk Bunthoeun, chief of Smert village, who allegedly sold the land to the three men claiming that he owned it, will now be charged with fraud and initiating the clearing of forest land by district police.
An official complaint has been forwarded to the provincial court for further action.
The police say that they were checking for illegal land clearings in the forest yesterday afternoon when then chanced upon the three men, who were in the process of clearing the 2-hectare plot.
The trio – Kem Bros, 26; Sal Saruon, 20; and Tive Bunheng, 45 – were found in possession of three chainsaws, a communication radio and an air rifle, they said.
“They bought the land for $200 to $500 per hectare from Ouk Bunthoeun, who told them that the land belonged to him,” said Veal Veng district police chief Theang Leng.
According to Leng, while the village chief will face legal action, the three men who bought the land were released after they were “educated” about their wrongdoing and signed documents promising to give back the land.