An ethnic community in Mondulkiri province has rejected a cash offer from a company that wants to clear thousands of hectares of forest locals claim as their own, saying they value the land more than money.
Phnong ethnic villagers who live in Ou Reang district’s Dak Dam commune have turned down $20,000 from power, resources and property development company Mega First Corporation, which the company suggested the community use to celebrate its religion.
“We had a meeting and decided that we would not take the money from the company because we won’t allow them to clear forest we have conserved,” said community representative Toeng Thi.
“We have looked after this forest for a long time, which, along with the land, is our life and our future.”
According to Mondulkiri Adhoc coordinator Sok Rotha, Mega First Corporation was granted a concession on 9,000 hectares of land in the area by the government in 2012.
“The company has cleared about 500 hectares already and wants to continue clearing,” he said. “The villagers have protested about this three times already.”
It was for villagers to decide whether to accept the compensation offer, he added.
Dak Dam commune chief Som Vanny said the authorities had tried to negotiate with the villagers. “We do not want them come to protest again and again, nor do we want any violence,” he said.