Wednesday, 11 May 2011 15:02Thik Kaliyann
Siem Reap Province
HUNDREDS of villagers living in Siem Reap’s Prey Choam forest, who were sold the land by a military brigadier in 2005, have been told they will be evicted in July to make way for a reforestation project.
Chheng Kim Son, general director of the provincial Forestry Administration, said the villagers were sold the land by Brigadier Peuy Pel, who was arrested in January this year over suspicion of his involvement in the anti-government group Cambodian Freedom Fighters.
“The villagers who are living on the land have become a problem,” Kim Son said. “Recently hundreds of families from various provinces have moved here after buying land illegally from Peuy Pel. They will be faced with relocation in the near future.”
He alleged that in order to sell the 1,000 hectare area of land in Banteay Srei’s Knar Rongveas village, Peuy Pel had set fire to the forest – requiring a costly reforestation programme.
“[Reforestation] may cost up to US$50,000 per hectare. If we let illegal wood harvesting get out of control it will affect the natural beauty of Cambodia and lead to a loss of tourist income,” he said.
The reclaimed land, which he said had been awarded back to the Forestry Administration from Puey Pel in 2006, would be used to plant 10,000 acacia and ebony trees.
Banteay Srei District Chief Meung Vuthy said yesterday that no provisions had been made to help the villagers relocate.
Prior to his arrest in January, Peuy Pel had appeared in court several times on charges ranging from illegal logging to land-grabbing in areas around Prey Choam.