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Forest clearing ceases as complaint is filed

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Felled trees on land allegedly being cleared by Chea Chanrith Development in Ratanakkiri province’s O’Yadav district. Photograph supplied

A Vietnamese developer accused by an ethnic Jarai community of razing more than 30 hectares of community jungle in Ratanakkiri seemingly halted work on Monday, just as the community filed a complaint seeking the intervention of the rights group Adhoc, an NGO official said yesterday.

Adhoc provincial co-ordinator Chhay Thi said reporters, NGO workers and authorities had found an operational work site when they visited the area in question on Sunday, only to find the workers, equipment and even workers’ shelters removed the next day — the same day Jarai villagers in Lumchor commune, in Ratanakkiri’s O’Yadav district, filed an official complaint against the company, Chea Chanrith Development.  

“We found the withdrawal of tractors, but the community requested an intervention from the court prosecutor, the forestry administration and the provincial governor, so they have filed a complaint to us to continue appealing to these three authorities,” Thi said.

The cleared site, according to Adhoc’s investigation, had been dense jungle that could not be classified as degraded forest and was therefore not legally suitable for a forest concession.

The complaint, which Adhoc obtained on Monday, says the residents of Lumchor commune depend on the forest in question as the source of their livelihoods and as a wildlife sanctuary.

“We need to stop clearing the protected jungle in our community and request that the company re-plant trees in this forest,” commune chief Sev Thvan, who thumbprinted the complaint, said.

According to the complaint, the developer began clearing the forest on November 20 but “did not inform the community and local authorities.”

Although the company secured permission from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to clear 659 hectares of land in O’ Yadav and Bokeo district, it should have informed authorities and studied the impact of the work, Thvan said.

But Phan Phoeun, deputy director of the Ratanakiri Forestry Administration, said the site was a properly granted land concession, and that GPS measurements last week did not show that clearing was taking place in the Jarai’s community forest.

“This Vietnamese company owner didn’t clear community forest, but he cleared his land near the community forest,” Phoeun said. 

“The land that his company has cleared is poor jungle, and [the concession] is to grow rubber trees.”

Chea Chanrith Development representative Chan Mab echoed Phoeun, noting that the clearance was approved, but declined to say why the site had suddenly fallen silent.

“We have a legal licence for over 659 hectares,” he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Chhay Channyda at channyda.chhay@phnompenhpost.com

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