My Prayer and Respect to Venerable!
Tonle Sap Lake Covers 6 provinces and Is Divided Into Three Zones
After traveling from Cambodia to the United States, from the United States to Cambodia, and then to Europe, today, before I delivered a speech at the Summit on the Future of Asia […] at 11am, I take this opportunity to present and announce to the compatriots living around the Tonle Sap Lake regarding the Royal Government’s policy on the conservation (areas) of the Tonle Sap Lake. This goes along with some considerations for the people in the area. It is well known that the Tonle Sap Lake is a large lake with a lot of water and fish resources that need to be conserved.
The Tonle Sap Lake covers six provinces, including Kampong Chhnang, Kampong Thom, Siem Reap, Battambang, Pursat, and Banteay Meanchey. Some time ago, we divided the Tonle Sap area into three zones. The first area was the living area of the people, where they could register the land and the authorities concerned can offer ownership to the people. The second zone is the area between zone 1 and zone 3, (where the authority may) allow people to use (in cultivation) but cannot claim ownership […] and the third area is a flooded forest area and is strictly prohibited, but there is still encroachment.
Tonle Sap Demarcation Take into Account Conservation and Livelihoods History
Some time ago, I issued an order to crack down on and prevent the encroachment of flooded forests in the Tonle Sap Lake area, and the campaign led by His Excellency Deputy Prime Minister Chea Sophara. Here, in terms of conservation and support arrangements for farmers, we have considered two factors. The first factor is the conservation of the Tonle Sap Lake, where we must protect for the lives of our people and our country. The second factor must also take people life there into consideration.
At this point, I also ordered His Excellency Chea Sophara, together with the provincial authorities around the Tonle Sap Lake, to make adjustments […] of boundaries of zone 3 and zone 2, already decided before. For instance, the adjustments of of the Tonle Sap Lake border in Kampong Thom Province of 10,014 hectares from zone 2 to zone 1 for 9,144 families and revised 6,365 hectares equal to 2,025 plots from zone 3 to zone 2 Tonle Sap for 1,749 families in Banteay Meanchey province. Adjusted area of 58 hectares, 16 acres from zone 3 to zone 2 of Tonle Sap Lake for 22 families, and in Pursat province, adjusted area of 3,448 hectares from zone 3 to zone 2 of Tonle Sap Lake for 1,658 families.
Yesterday, I instructed His Excellency Chea Sophara, in cooperation with the provincial authorities around the Tonle Sap, to continue the examination […] according to three essential principles, and I can assure you that we weigh between two directions. The first is for the Tonle Sap to be conserved, and the second is to consider several factors related to the historical and living conditions of the people.
Three Tasks for Conservation of the Tonle Sap Lake
This issue requires us to do three critical things in the future. The first, based on the actual situation of each geographical setup and location where the existing population has formed a village, a district, including a pagoda, the demarcation is to take into consideration adjustment frontier between the second or third area. Some villages have been around for a long time. This issue must be considered, and we must be flexible. Whether in Zone 2 or Zone 3, we must recognize that this region existed before we defined zoning – Zone 1, Zone 2, and Zone 3.
In the 1980s, we had a commune called Koh Chiveang, in Ek Phnom district of Battambang province. This commune is floating in the water, and we also helped build a pagoda and school there. So, this is not a new place that has recently been encroached. They (have) lived for generations, and such land shall be taken out from the zone. The situation is like a tiger skin condition. At this point, HE Chea Sophara, together with the provincial, district, and commune governors in those areas, must be responsible for keeping them. Only the Royal Government has the right to decide on this issue, but the decision will be based on topics related to its historical factors and the people’s actual lives.
Task 1: Carved out Land from Zone 2 and 3, Where People Have Been Living a Long Time
[…] Today Samdech Krolahorm Sar Kheng is in Battambang, but H.E. Chea Sophara had to travel to other provinces. I reaffirmed to the six provinces bordering the Tonle Sap Lake to be responsible for people in their areas, both at the provincial, district, and commune levels. This is the first point, and the land must be carved out from Zone 2 or Zone 3, where people have been living and formed a village, including schools and pagodas, for a long time. We cannot consider them as Zone 3, and move the people from the site. This is an order that I make to avoid any confusion regarding the eviction or removal of people (living) in Zone 3 according to the map that we have set. This is a point to be avoided, and this is the responsibility of the provincial governors and of the communes there to verify the identity of the area where the people buult their home villages and live off the ground. this is the first thing to do.
Task 2: Adjust Boundaries of Zones 2 and 3 Based on Necessary and Reasonable Facts
The second task to be done is to redefine the boundaries of Zones 2 and 3 based on the specificities, especially the necessary and reasonable land area, especially to protect the flooded forest area of the Tonle Sap Lake in the current condition of the lake area as well as the shallow land that people used to grow crops. At this point, we are flexible because some places are shallow, and people have been farming there for a long time. We have no difficulties. We can sign a new document and delete it to edit the border […] I also call on the people not to cut more of the flooded forest. They are done for the people who have been living off the ground there and not for the merchants whose previous claiming activities brought about our actions to forbid them […] it is necessary to make adjustments that revise the normative documents and adjust the pillars of the zones by including some areas in Zone 3 to Zone 2 or adjusting some areas in Zone 2 to Zone 1.
His Excellency Chea Sophara must work with other ministries such as the Ministry of Water Resources, the Tonle Sap Authority, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries, and the provincial authorities to reorganize the area for our people. Regarding poles to mark the border in the Tonle Sap, I would like to emphasize that we must use a large pole, not a small pole […] we have to use the big poles so that the people can easily recognize them […] we can spend more, but in return, we protect and preserve our Tonle Sap Lake together so that the people do not confuse […] it is vital to make this pole a big and strong.
New Encroachment Sites Subject to Confiscation and Reforestation
Secondly, I would like to ask His Excellency Chea Sophara and all provincial governors to take responsibility for the people who live in that area and use that land as arable land for decades. Have to arrange them another place. We allow them to continue reaping benefit from the land. That means they can transplant and finish their harvests before we take the land. Now that they have been harvested, we have to get ready […] to know where to give it to them and where to take it back for reforestation. It must be divided.
Any new encroachments subjected to confiscation […] must be left for replanting trees. But in some areas, the people worked for 20 years or 30 years; some after the liberation or even before liberation, […] we have to keep them for the people […] start doing this after their harvests and confirm the identification for the land they are living off. You must give them ownerships. If you carved out land from Zone 2 and place them in Zone 1, the authority must offer land titles to them. Land carved out from Zone 3 and placed them in Zone 2, they are entitled to live off the land, but they do not enjoy land ownership. Therefore, this issue needs to be clarified to avoid confusion over Zone 2, the area that people can live off the ground, and Zone 3, that are protected.
So, the only way to achieve this is to have a new boundary organized with a mechanism. I am in charge of signing the sub-decree. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, H.E. Chea Sophara must work with the Ministry of Water Resources and Tonle Sap Authority to revise the normative documents related to the measures and reorganize the poles. It is essential to verify the carved out of Zone 3 area to the Zone 2 area, where people have been cultivating crops for a long time. We give this to the people to grow more crops. But in the case of recent encroachments, we do not allow it. That is the area for reforestation.
Oppose Use of Power and Money, Support People Who Grow Crops in Good Faith
I call on the people that once they have received the land, please do not clear the neighboring land to expand the land further. And I do not allow the outsider, a merchant or influential figure, to collaborate with and hire the people in the area to clear hundreds of thousands of hectares of land (as is the case that happened). We need to act on this issue. We strongly oppose the use of power and money disguised under people’s claiming for land, while un fact they are taking over the flooded forest land for their benefit. We support, encourage, and assist honest people who have been cultivating this land for a long time.
The only option is to revise the normative standard and zoning, with new coordinates, to re-establish land in Zone 2, where people have been cultivating crops for a long time. It must be given to them to grow crops. However, the land that has been recently deforested for the last two or three years in a flooded forest must be confiscated to replant trees as spawning ground for fish. This is a point that I must encourage, on the one hand, to preserve our Tonle Sap, but on the other hand, to take into account the historical and geographical factors of the people who were born in the area. We cannot evacuate all the people from Zone 3. Those villages must be recognized as their villages. With this, we will help build schools and pagodas there. We have already done that so far such as floating school […]
Task 3: TSLA, MWRM and MAFF and Six Provinces to Work on Depth Restoration
The third point is to task the Tonle Sap Lake Authority (TSLA) with cooperating with the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology (MWRM), the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF), and the six provinces to see which areas we needed to restore their depths. Every year, the sediment flows in with the fall of leaves, making our Tonle Sap Lake, day by day, shallower and shallower. Typically, water always brings sediment into the Tonle Sap area in the rainy season, and […] the annual deciduous forests making our Tonle Sap increasingly shallow. Thus, the water temperature in the Tonle Sap Lake increases. Therefore, the conservation of fish species is a complex issue. To ensure that we maintain the species of fish in the Tonle Sap Lake, it is necessary to determine the location so that we (figure out ways to) assist in the restoration of water depth to ensure that in the dry season, the fish can settle in and survive. They will be sanctuaries to preserve fish species.
We cannot wholly restore Tonle Sap Lake now. We have to start from some provinces, and we have to start from one or two points, depending on the actual feasibility of the budget that we have. The work related to protecting fish-protected areas must start first. Next, let us find ways to restore the Tonle Sap Lake. At this point, please coordinate a master plan. In particular, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries needed to know where the fish species are to be protected and how many cubic meters, and how many hectares needed to be restored and put into the national budget. Restoration work (to be studied) shall be carried out by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry or assigned to a sub-national authority to do the jobs.
We have the Tonle Sap Authority and other relevant ministries to do this work carefully. Where can this alluvium be dumped? It may still be left in the Tonle Sap if not coordinated effectively. The Tonle Sap has mud and water, or restored silt can be used as fertilizer. You need to study that problem carefully. The Tonle Sap Lake is fertile in alluvial soil. This restored soil can be used as fertilizer, or we can form a partnership with the private sector that produces fertilizer using the silt in the Tonle Sap Lake. The private sector can (consider) taking the sediment we take out by restoring the Tonle Sap to process into fertilizer for farmers. If the state does, the state must also think of how to use the soil as fertilizer so that our people can benefit from the land taken out and used as a natural fertilizer for agriculture.
Tonle Sap Lake Area: Areas to Be Owned, to Live Off, and to Prohibit
In this regard, I still emphasize these three crucial points, and the first point reiterates that the villages of the people who have lived for a long time, must immediately carve out of Zone 2 or Zone 3 […] (people living in those) villages before the zones’ setup – Zone 1 and Zone 2 are to carve out and give them access to live there permanently, including living off it and receiving ownership. Please consider this issue. There are areas to be owned, areas to live off, and to place in restriction [...]
The other important thing is the second issue related to the area re-adjustment, sub-decree adjustment […] the people who have been cultivating for a long time. The provincial governors, the district governors, and the village chiefs must check whether the people in that area are in Zone 2 or 3. If they now cultivate in Zone 3 (for instance 500 hectares), we can remove demarcation poles from this 500-hectare area to keep them cultivating. I am speaking here, referring to the people he has been cultivating for a long time, not to those who go to harvest for two years, three years, four years, five years, whose hold of land must be deprived. The land area here is marked into Zone 2, allowing the people to live off the ground. For some of the Zone 2 areas where the people cultivated a long time ago, we will put them into Zone 1, which we will give ownership to them.
This is a point that needs to be balanced between the interests that must be protected as a whole for the nation and the specific interests of the people to continue to have land to grow crops. But I still insist on the people who have been given the right to continue to benefit from it and the people who have been moved from Zone 2 to Zone 1, and I ask that there be no further deforestation […] I would like to emphasize that to give the people the legitimacy of using the land, it requires us to amend the sub-decree that H.E. Lim Kean Hor has to do this work under the leadership of H.E. Chea Sophara in defining and re-demarcating where land in Zone 3 could be carved and placed in Zone 2. Then, in Zone 2, which looks shallow and no longer possible to rehabilitate, must be carved out and placed in Zone 1 to give ownership to the people […]
Please start doing this work now without waiting. People have to work to grow crops, and some people are working against time to grow floating rice […] whether they can do it or not, we have to decide quickly. The sooner, the better. The most obvious ones are the provincial governors, the district governors, and the commune chiefs who have a better knowledge on the spot.
With 10 Years Cultivating Background, People Can Go On
Now, to avoid the wait, because the rice season has arrived for the upland rice farmers, I permit in principle for the people to work on land, but not on the newly confiscated encroached upon land. I allow for people who have worked for at least ten years or more or less; in case the land is not flooded, it is shallow land that cannot be restored. I do not want the people to confuse and go back and cut more forest for land. It is strictly forbidden to cut down flooded forest to expand land, and it is forbidden to take back the recently planted land with trees.
As for the land that the people have been cultivating in the past, it is the subject of inspection to provide the people who are reverting from Zone 3 into Zone 2 for people to cultivate, and transfer some land in Zone 2 to Zone 1, while giving them ownership. In this way, we can keep the Tonle Sap inundated forest land, on one side, so that there will not be a new encroachment into the protected lake area, plus the third measure is to rehabilitate the shallow areas where we need to use the national budget to solve the problem. This is for the benefit of our people.
I hope that the provincial governors, the district governors, and the commune chiefs are accountable to the Royal Government in front of their local people. Today, I came out to confirm as the Prime Minister, who has the sole right to sign the sub-decree for the provision of land to the people at the request of the provincial governors, which the commune chiefs propose to the district, and the district propose to the province, and H.E. Chea Sophara has to manage this work with other relevant institutions […]
Rehabilitation Work Could Start Next Year
We have already solved the problem of preventing encroachment and reclaiming the encroached land, but the remaining object is the area that I mentioned, first of all, the village, the people, and what to do? It must be clear that those people must remain there (as we have to) give ownership of the area. Whether in area 3 or area 2, we needed to check this issue. It must be done according to law […] we also used to solve this problem about some flooded forest problem before in Kandal province, in Prey Veng province.
The subject must be constantly monitored so that people can grow upland rice and dry season rice that is approaching when the water recedes. Now the river is increasing. But when the water recedes, where can people grow crops? We must specify from now. The area to be rehabilitated is to be studied. It may not be done this year but maybe done next year. We will look at some areas, but we do not do it on a large scale because our national budget is facing difficulties due to Covid-19 and the impact of the international situation, such as the war in Ukraine.
Communal, District and Provincial Governors Responsible and Accountable
I hope that all venerable as well as the people living around the Tonle Sap Lake (are well informed of this decision that) the leadership of the institutions led by HE Chea Sophara, Deputy Prime Minister, as well as provincial, district, and council authorities, the commune councils, are responsible for the people and duty to protect the territory and the territory that you people must benefit from cultivation. We demand such land for the people to grow crops. In some areas where trees need replanted, commune chiefs and commune councilors are aware of this.
This burden falls on the commune, which the people will vote for you in the future, and you have to be accountable to the people there for their long-term cultivation, plus the responsibility of district governor, the provincial governor, and my duty is to sign (a sub-decree). I can sign requests, and I can also sign corrections with the request. The Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology, in charge of this matter, must report to HE Chea Sophara. Once finalized, the working group will file (a request) to me to issue a new sub-decree to facilitate the boundaries of Zone 1, Zone 2, and Zone 3 […]
I thank all venerable and all my compatriots. Today, at 11am noon, I will once again broadcast the live broadcast of the Conference on the Future of Asia, which I will meet online from my home. This is a busy day, but this is the normal task of the Prime Minister, even though I am still having a jetlag (because) the United States differs 13 hours (from Cambodia) […] went to Europe where the time difference is another 5 hours. I can still sleep, however, but it is not enough as normal. The work to be done is inevitable. I would like to bless all venerable, and I would like to wish all my compatriots the best of luck and the five blessings of Buddha […]./.