Conservationists warn government of encroachment

Source: Phnom Penh Post

Environment Minister Sam Al Am chairs meeting yesterday in Phnom Penh. Facebook

Conservation NGOs yesterday raised the issue of alleged land grabs in the country’s protected areas by the military and local authorities at a resources protection forum, asking Environment Minister Say Sam Al to intervene.
Jonathan Charles Eames, senior technical adviser at BirdLife International, raised the issue of alleged land grabbing by the army in protected areas. “This is an ongoing problem in a number of places across the country,” including at the Siem Pang Wildlife Sanctuary in Stung Treng province, he said.

Eames asked for better cooperation among all ministries to ensure that the laws are enforced but could not be reached for elaboration after the meeting. Other BirdLife officials either could not be reached or declined to comment.

Sam Al said the issue may have arisen from confusion stemming from recent border tensions with Laos, which required the army to be on standby in the area. Major General Svay Nhorn, Stung Treng provincial military commander, denied the alleged land grabbing.

At the forum, Suwanna Gauntlett, executive director of Wildlife Alliance, reminded Sam Al that more than 600 hectares of the protected Southern Cardamom National Park in Koh Kong have been illegally cleared since 2013 by local officials, but no case has been sent to court.

Sam Al said he had filed a report to the Interior Ministry.

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