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Ethnic villagers fight lake fill-in

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Ethnic Jarai in Poknhai commune protest against Vietnamese company earlier. Photograph: Adhoc

One hundred and thirteen Jarai families from Ratanakkiri’s Bakeo district are sending a letter of protest to the provincial fishery administration today, after a Vietnamese rubber company  started filling in a lake that they had promised last month to preserve for villagers.

Rochom Ven, chief of the Yasom village in the Soeung commune, said the company, Kao Su Ea Lev BM Yoy Stock, resumed filling in the 50-metre-by-300-metre lake with plants and bamboo late last month.

Earlier that month, the Jarai villagers had complained to rights group Adhoc when the rubber company first started clearing land near the lake.

With their help, villagers claim the Vietnamese company promised to leave the lake alone.

Ven said: “Our villagers visited the lake and saw a bulldozer clearing the forest near the lake. Plants and bamboo were found in the water and gave it a bad smell.”

The families will send their letter of protest to be endorsed by their commune chief before they forward it to the fisheries administration today.

According to Ven, the lake is used by thousands of villagers and livestock from three communes as a daily source of food and water.

The lake lies on an 8,400-hectare economic land concession that Kao Su Ea Lev BM Yoy Stock obtained in 2011 for a rubber plantation. The company could not be contacted for comment yesterday.

Adhoc provincial monitor Chhay Thi said villagers informed him of their predicament yesterday morning.

“This is not the first time this company has violated their promise to villagers,” said Thi.

Phan Phoeun, deputy chief of the provincial Forestry Administration, said that the law is in the company’s favour since the lake is located within their land concession.

“The villagers should have reported earlier that there was a lake within the land concession.”

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