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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Ethnic minorities protest clearing of their ancestral land

Ethnic minorities protest clearing of their ancestral land

A govt-sanctioned economic land concession has come under fire from villagers who say their forests and farms are being destroyed

DISPUTED CLAIMS


The locally owned CIV Co claims to have obtained legal rights to 700 hectares of land in Snuol district in 2002, when it was granted an economic land concession to develop a rubber plantation. District authorities confirm the company's ownership.

MORE than 300 Stieng and Phnong ethnic minority members from five villages in the Snuol district of Kratie province have demonstrated against the clearing of their ancestral farmlands by a private company. 

"The company has been building a 10-kilometre road from the national road into the economic concession land ... which is affecting people's farmlands," said Saraen Kaet,  a community representative for the district's Srae Char commune.

Saraen Kaet told the Post Sunday that the protesters had blocked the company's tractors,  preventing them from clearing the land.

He added that villagers from Srae Char and Bi Thnou communes have been farming the land since 1979 and that the produce supports 1,200 people from surrounding villages.

The CIV company has now stopped clearing the forest and farmland.’

"We have complained to the governor about the economic land concession given to the company" in 2002, he said, adding that the farmers had not been consulted before the clearing began and were still waiting for a response from the district governor over their concerns.
Temporary halt?

Snuol District Governor Ear Sophum confirmed that the locally-owned CIV Co had obtained rights to the land as part of the government's economic land concession scheme.

He said a study had been conducted by the government's ELC committee  before the concession was granted and  had authorised the project.

"Those villagers always pass over our authority and they have never complained to me. [Instead] they go to ask for help from NGOs ... which violates our authority," he said.

Suong Runaveth, a monitor for the Cambodian rights organisation Licadho, said several organisations have travelled to the site to monitor the protest and protect the people from any violence from the company. 

"The CIV Company has now stopped clearing the forest and farmland and is waiting for a resolution from the local authority," he said.

Although there was no reaction from local authorities, the protesters went home after the company moved their tractors from the site on Sunday.

The protesters vowed to return if necessary. "If the tractors come back ... so will the people," Saraen Kaet said.

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