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Villagers inspect a section of deforested land in Mondulkiri’s Keo Seima district
Villagers inspect a section of deforested land in Mondulkiri’s Keo Seima district on Sunday. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Forest almost gone: Adhoc

About 200 families from Mondulkiri’s Keo Seima district filed a complaint on Sunday against a Vietnamese-owned company alleged to have razed more than 3,500 hectares of community forest since 2010, villagers and a rights group said yesterday.

A rubber concessionaire identified as Sovan Reachsey has been clearing swaths of forest in Sre Khtum commune, said Sok Ratha, a provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc.

“The forest covers 3,500 hectares of land but the company has logged, cleared and burned down almost all of it for rubber trees,” Ratha said, adding that he and two other Adhoc officials had visited the area on Sunday only to discover that just 200 hectares of forest remains.

Rights monitors are drafting a letter on the results of their own internal investigation with the intention of submitting it to provincial authorities today, he added.

“We do not understand why the company dares to clear the forest, because authorities and villagers have no documents about the company,” Ratha said, adding that documents legitimising the company’s presence were nowhere to be found.

Locals such as Yim Min, 44, a community leader, have already lodged complaints with authorities.

“The company has been clearing the forest since 2010 and we have complained to authorities, but nothing is ever carried out,” Min said, adding that 10 village representatives met with two company officials and district authorities on Monday but a resolution has yet to be reached.

Chhiek Chheng, a Sre Khtum commune council member said yesterday that provincial, district and commune authorities were planning to visit the area today.

Provincial governor Eng Bunheang could not be reached yesterday, while district governor Sin Vanvuth declined to comment.

Contact details for the firm could not be found yesterday.

In May last year, in the same week that a report found rubber firms responsible for deforesting large swaths of the country, Prime Minister Hun Sen boasted that Cambodia could soon have a rubber industry bigger than Vietnam’s.

The report, from UK watchdog Global Witness, accuses Vietnamese rubber firms awarded huge economic land concessions by the government of perpetuating a “land-grabbing crisis” and engaging in large-scale illegal logging.

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