The Cambodian government has taken back 13 hectares of protected mangrove forest in Koh Kong province which were illegally sold off to a tycoon and filled up with sand, according to The Phnom Penh Post Online on Thursday.
According to an announcement of the Council of Ministers dated March 8, the government is seizing as a state property 13 hectares which were possessed by Sok Kimhong and Meas Sivchou.
But the announcement did not mention Oknha Chea Leanghong who bought the land from Kimhong and Sivchou or local authorities who approved the sale.
Government spokesman Phay Siphan denied that the government was protecting those involved in the illegal sale of the land.
Alex Gonzalez-Davidson, co-founder of the NGO Mother Nature said the government would never dare do anything which might affect the reputation of well-connected tycoons such as Chea Leanghong, let alone order the courts to launch an investigation.
“I find particularly abhorrent the fact that this is happening while activists are jailed for months under horrific conditions for simply monitoring environmental destruction,” said Davidson.
He further said he didn’t think the Ministry of Environment would do anything with the reclaimed land, adding that Mother Nature would organize an event aiming to do so.