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Firm accused of ‘taking over’ community forest

Villagers in Ratanakkiri province’s O’Yadav district have filed a complaint with rights group Adhoc against a logging company they say has claimed more than 9,000 hectares of community forest as its own and threatened residents against using the land.

According to the complaint, which four community members filed yesterday, Cambodian company Prampimakara Powery entered the area last year and declared ownership of the community forest. The land covers three villages in O’Yadav’s Sesan commune, where more than 300 ethnic Jarai families live, said Sal Hlob, 36, one of the four who filed the complaint.

“[Prampimakara Powery] cleared the forest and logged Sokrom, Kakoh, and Sra Lov [wood], and sold it to Vietnamese buyers,” Hlob said yesterday. “In the future, the next generation will not have a forest to depend on; that is why we are seeking intervention from Adhoc to remove the company.”

Contact information for Prampimakara could not be found yesterday.

In addition to logging the area – which those who complained said is illegal – officials from the company have threatened villagers that they will fine them for cultivating land there, Hlob said.

If villagers the company fines don’t pay the $5,000 per hectare or $500 per tree demanded, Prampimakara officials say they will sue, he added.

Sev Doeurn, chief of Phi village – one of the three affected – yesterday said the firm has not cleared the forest. However, Doeurn said, Prampimakara has logged wood on about four hectares.

“The company has told us not to cut down trees to build houses, they said all the land belongs to them, which is thousands of hectares,” Doeurn said. “Therefore, it affects all the farms.”

Upon receiving the complaint yesterday, Adhoc coordinator Chhay Thy said it claimed that 2,000 large trees from the community forest had been cut down by Prampimakara. The NGO will bring the filing to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, in order to launch an official investigation into the allegations, Thy said.

O’Yadav officials plan to hold a meeting tonight regarding Prampimakara, Sesan commune chief Sev Sven said.

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