Cambodian official implicated in illegal forest clearing scandal


Forest inside the Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary Photo: Edward Pollard for World Conservation Society, Cambodia

 The Director of a rural development department in one of Cambodia’s eastern provinces has illegally cleared forest inside the Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary to plant cashew trees and other crops, according to authorities.

The allegations were brought against Yun Saroum by a local forest community in Mondulkiri province and were investigated by a special committee. With the help of land management data, the committee concluded last week that illegal clearance of 50 hectares of forest had occured.

The land in question is community managed forest located inside the Sanctuary. Saroum was reportedly neither able to say how much he had paid for the land, nor had documents to prove rightful ownership. He claimed that he bought the land seven years ago from an indigenous minority group. However, a spokeperson for the land rights group Adhoc, said that Saroum should have been aware that  the group did not have any right to sell the land

Authorities have reportedly said the land has been confiscated and will be given to the Phnong community to manage. The case is still under investigation.

The Sanctuary, which covers almost 300,000 hectares, contains several endangered species, and is vital to the conservation of primates, Asian elephants and several species of birds. It is home to many communities, for whom the forest has great economic, spiritual and cultural value.

Last month,  NASA released dramatic images showing the extent of deforestation in Cambodia. Just three per cent of the country remains covered in primary forest.

Read more here.

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