A private agro-industrial company has come under fire from villagers in Ratanakkiri province who say it has illegally felled resin-producing trees that are their main source of income.
More than 1,000 trees in the Lumphat Wildlife Sanctuary in Ratanakkiri’s Lumphat district are under threat, the villagers said, after allegedly catching loggers working for Daun Penh Agrico Co Ltd felling several trees yesterday.
Dam Lean, 55, a local ethnic Lao villager, said a citizen patrol in the forest yesterday disturbed 19 men felling the trees.
“The men claimed they were cutting resin trees for a company and the Lumphat Wildlife Sanctuary allowed them to log there,” he said.
Sovann Bunthai, a provincial representative of rights group Adhoc who visited the sanctuary yesterday, said the company responsible was likely to be Daun Penh Agrico, which was granted an 8,825-hectare economic land concession (ELC) in the sanctuary in 2011.
Despite the company being granted the ELC, Forestry Law prohibits the felling of resin trees due to their importance to forest communities.
“The granting of [this] land concession is seriously affecting the Lao ethnic minority,” Bunthai said.
Thun Sarath, a spokesman for the Forestry Administration, said the resin trees should be protected by law.
“It is not allowed to cut the resin trees, even though it is inside the economic land concession. Such a tree is big, so that it produces resin for our people,” he said. “So why do we cut it and just plant rubber?”
Lean said that the villagers had been drawing resin from the trees for two decades but that the loggers had managed to pay one villager $200 to let them fell five resin trees.
“Our lives are based on the trees. We are concerned how we will survive when the trees are lost,” he said.
Kong Srun, Lumphat district governor, declined to comment on the legality of Daun Penh Agrico felling resin trees in its ELC, adding that in general it was against the law. “I dare not comment on that,” he said.
People answering two numbers the Post believe to belong to Daun Penh Agrico said it was a “wrong number”.