On December 19, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court indicted two senior police officials with several counts for their involvement in the destruction of the flooded forests of Tonle Sap Lake in Kampong Leng district, Kampong Chhnang province. .
Brigadier General Sum Socheat has been charged with four counts, while Provincial Intervention Police Chief Colonel Keo Narun has been charged with three counts.
The charges came after the Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) arrested the duo on December 16. ACU said Socheat, 51, had engaged in the occupation and sale of state flooded forest land in four different parts of the district.
ACU said it has taken legal action against Narun, 59, for state occupation of flooded forest land in three other areas in the district.
According to a letter from investigating judge Koy Sao, who is also vice-president of the municipal court, Socheat is accused of destruction of state property and embezzlement under article 608 of the Criminal Code.
He is also accused of clearing protected forests and flooded forest lands for private property under Article 98 of the Fisheries Law; public corruption and money laundering under Articles 32 and 38 of the Anti-Corruption Law as well as Articles 3 and 29 of the Law on Combating Money Laundering and the Financing of Terrorism.
The crimes were allegedly committed in Lake Region 3 in two villages in Chranouk commune of Kampong Leng district from 2017 to 2021.
Narun was also charged with destruction of state property and embezzlement and clearing of flooded forest land for private property as well as failure to report assets, all in the same commune and during the same period as the alleged crimes of Socheat.
Their arrest came after joint inter-ministerial forces enforced Prime Minister Hun Sen’s order to quell the encroachment on Lake Area 3, which was to be preserved as a fish spawning ground.
ACU chief Om Yentieng declined to comment when asked if his unit is taking legal action against others involved in clearing flooded forests, which authorities say consists of a vast area covering tens of thousands of hectares – a much larger scope than both. accused of having destroyed.
Sok Touch, president of the Royal Academy of Cambodia who first sounded the alarm, had researched the flooded forest areas around the lake and reported to Hun Sen last week that encroachment was widespread.
âThe walls of Angkor Wat are carved with fish. Why? Due to the huge amount of fish in Tonle Sap Lake which have always supported the population here and are now endangered because the area around the lake that the fish use for spawning has been occupied for personal use.
“In Kampong Thom province alone, up to 100,000 ha have been cleared, but authorities have so far only mentioned 3,000 ha,” Touch said.
Meanwhile, officials from the Tonle Sap Authority and the water resources and meteorological departments of the six provinces around the lake have inspected 659 border posts delineating Region 3, which the government had preserved for spawning fish. .
The Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology said on December 17 that the 659 stations inspected were out of a total of 802, or 82.2% of them. The posts were planted around the lake to avoid encroachment.
Of the 659 posts, 208 that were still standing were painted to make them more visible, 202 tilted posts were painted after being straightened, and 208 were underwater. The ministry also created 41 new positions. Poles that are currently in the water will be inspected when the water recedes.
The ministry said it also placed information banners in 10 different locations. They are part of a total of 52 banners that will be placed around the lake.
Authorities from the six provinces – Pursat, Battambang, Kampong Chhnang, Banteay Meanchey, Siem Reap and Kampong Thom – and the relevant national authorities are currently reforesting the area with different types of trees that are native to it.
In Kampong Thom province alone, nearly 40,000 saplings have been planted in region 3 of Srayov commune of Stung Sen town. In Battambang, the authorities planted palm trees, bamboos and trees (Barringtonia acutangula).