His Excellency, Lok Chumteav, dear compatriots!
Today I am sending an audio message, but it is not related to COVID-19 as before. Today’s voicemail addresses a significant issue that has been emerging in our Tonle Sap region.
According to a research report led by the Royal Academy of Cambodia, led by Academician Dr. Sok Touch, examining the Tonle Sap Lake which found out a worrying and urgent situation that requires a solution regarding anarchic deforestation in the conservative area, in some provinces, especially within Kampong Chhnang and possibly some other provinces. Such disorder is unacceptable and unforgivable for officials involved in the administration of the provincial, district, or other officials who have been involved in a land grabbing situation. This also applies to the people/citizen, and we will not be able to accept the encroachment on the flooded forests of our Tonle Sap region.
Therefore, to protect our Tonle Sap Lake, which is already suffering from shallow land and deforestation by anarchists, it is necessary to take the measures that I have put in place:
First, all provincial governors in the Tonle Sap region will be responsible for monitoring and preventing immediately the clearing of flooded forest, which will lead to its recurrence after the flood recedes. Also, they need to manage the land that has already been grabbed. The provincial authorities must work on this to the fullest extent within their jurisdiction. The provincial governor is also the chairman of the Provincial Cadastral Commission, and there are also relevant departments such as Environmental, Water Resources, Agriculture, and Urban Planning and Land Management departments in the provinces that have to use all these forces under their authority and with the support of the army, police, and military to crack down this issue. I use the words “this is a law enforcement action,” not education. We have no time for further instruction.
In addition to the provincial level, I would like to issue an order to His Excellency Deputy Prime Minister Chea Sophara, Minister of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, and National Cadastral chairman to chair an emergency meeting with relevant ministries, including the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology, Tonle Sap Authority, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Ministry of Environment, and other relevant departments, including the Inspection Division of the Ministry of National Assembly-Senate Relations and Inspection, His Excellency General Sao Sokha, who is responsible for the suppression of forest crime in order to divide the tasks to work, to inspect, and to follow behind with the work of the province.
I issued an order to take back all the land that has already been invaded, like in Kampong Chhnang province. If this report is incorrect, I apologize. I heard that the former provincial governor (Kampong Chhnang) who just left office a few months ago, destroyed and grabbed more than 2,000 hectares of land. So, it does not matter if it is the land of the former governor, who is now the Under Secretary of State for the Ministry of Interior, no matter what level, all this land must be reclaimed. And that land must be the subject of later replanting.
Therefore, HE Chea Sophara must do this work urgently to divide the tasks because the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology and the Tonle Sap Authority have set the boundaries that define the protected area and that no one can touch. Now that those who have violated the law have already claimed land in that core area, I propose taking action and organizing teams for each and every province since in each ministry there are many Secretaries of State and Undersecretaries of State, to visit Tonle Sap provinces, for instance, Kampong Chhnang, Pursat, Battambang, Banteay Meanchey, Siem Reap, AND Kampong Thom. Moreover, we should include sub-areas related to the Tonle Sap such as parts of Kampong Cham and Kandal provinces. Most importantly, they must go to the severely damaged area which is Kampong Chhnang, and some parts which may be related to other provinces, they must work immediately with those provinces. All land of any officers or people in the areas that we have designated as zone one, zone two, and zone three must be taken back; those designated areas must not be infringed.
His Excellency General Sao Sokha must immediately lead the force to solve this problem by using infantry, navy, and helicopters to monitor the operation to immediately maintain this flooded forest area for the level of water will decrease soon then they will start to grow crops or deforest even more. We do not allow cultivation on the confiscated land, and all the authorities are the justice police, so we must arrest anyone who violates the provisions that we have previously imposed.
HE Om Yentieng must lead the Anti-Corruption Unit to investigate which officials are involved and prepare the case to be sent to the trial court.
The government is exhausted, and we have no opportunity to educate anyone about what they have done. Please remember that we have no more time to educate them, only the law can solve the problem. Those who involved will be processed to a court trial, and if they are government official, we will confiscate the land back and expand to confiscate their wealth-generating from the illegal activities of deforesting in the Tonle Sap region.
Therefore, it is necessary to act in unison without delay. The Air Force must prepare helicopters to serve on the one side, the law enforcement group led by General Sao Sokha and the other group led by HE Chea Sophara must delegate tasks to the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology, the Tonle Sap Authority, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of the Ministry of Environment to work on it together to avoid different reports. These groups had to travel together, except for the law enforcement unit, which General Sao Sokha headed. And on the other hand, the Anti-Corruption Unit is the investigation focal point. However, the inspection team involved with the national cadastral, with responsibilities for agriculture, fisheries, floodplains, and environmental issues, must go there together to avoid divisions and work thoroughly with the province. And I request that all provincial governors commit to tackling this issue and avoid actions taken by the province that is not responsible within the framework of its duties.
I hope that the Excellencies, Lok Chumteavs, both at the provincial and national levels, the relevant institutions, take action as soon as possible, and I still confirm that all the lands that have been deforested must be taken back and should not be allowed to be cultivated. Furthermore, no matter what the cost is, we must get the land back and these lands must only use for the planting of seedlings, reforestation, and maintain it for spawning fish in the Tonle Sap, as we have already done in the past.
The perpetrators must be held accountable before the law. I have stated that only the law can solve the problem of these people; we have educated them for decades about the consequences of this problem; why are there still such officials.
And I would also like to inform all the officials who have done wrong, if they want to reduce their sentences, they should confess immediately. If you do not make an immediate confession, I urge the law enforcement to go out and take the most drastic action: arrest them for legal action and confiscate the land and wealth they gained from it. That is why the Anti-Corruption Unit must take action to find out who else is involved. We cannot tolerate that while we are trying to fight against COVID-19, some of our officials acted irresponsibly, without fear of the law. These people are no longer worthy of being officers; they are better off in prison than officers.
And please do not say that they have been working for the party and the state for a long time, but they were not being acknowledged. We have no sympathy for such atrocities for our officials. I urge you to take immediate action, even if I do not mention enough, but you know how to deal with this under strict regulations. And this must be widely publicized in all media, radio, television, and other areas to reach the local.
I appeal to the people who follow the footstep of those officials; please hurry to leave; otherwise, you will be arrested, but those, at the provincial and district levels, are not free. It would be best if you immediately confessed so that there would be no arrests. It would be best if you admitted and to handing over your land. You can be safe, at least with the relief of your cooperation, but you are still guilty of this.
I am sorry, and I accept criticism from all quarters on this issue because I lack the educational ability of our officials. Because of this, I cannot accept such criticism without arresting or disciplining the recipient of the perpetrator. All compatriots, please understand this situation; on the one hand, we are fighting a battle (against COVID-19), but we do not expect some of our bad officials to take this opportunity to invade our Tonle Sap region.
This message is a bit hot, but if it is not hot, it is not possible. His Excellency Chea Sophara, His Excellency General Sao Sokha, His Excellency Om Yentieng must act as soon as possible. The relevant ministries, especially the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology, the Tonle Sap Authority, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries, who are responsible for issues related to Fisheries, floodplains, and protected areas, as well as environmental issues, must be held accountable for this. In particular, the provinces must act urgently without leaving time for transplanting or any other activities in the affected areas. The water level is decreasing there, and you have to control this situation; thank you./.