A local company halted its reported land-clearing operation in Kandal province’s Lvea Em district on Monday after local villagers found out it was damaging a state-owned forest where fish spawn in the wet season, local authorities said.
Barong commune police chief Thorng Muth said that since July 18, the Sinh Dai Company had cleared 100 to 200 hectares of the flooded forest using six tractors, two excavators and a bulldozer.
“They removed their equipment on the night of August 1 after people flocked to see them,” he said, implying the company feared the villagers’ reaction. “They were clearing without the commune authority knowing.”
Kandal Provincial Governor Mao Phirun sent officials from the Fisheries Administration (FA) to investigate after local media reported on the clearance, but said he did not know whether Sinh Dai was the company responsible.
“I have not received the official report from the Fisheries Administration,” he said. “We still do not know whether [the clearing] was legal.”
Vith Tharith, an FA official in Kandal, said when his team arrived, they did not see the vehicles, and people told them the company had bought the land.
“We have documents of buying and selling, with signatures of the village chief and commune authorities, but we are investigating,” Tharith said. “We do not allow the flooded forest to be destroyed because it shelters the fish.”
Muth said the company had previously cleared other areas and had ignored commune and district authorities.