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Grave sites cleared by rubber firms: NGOs

Four Vietnamese rubber firms are responsible for destroying an estimated 1,000 hectares of community forest, including an indigenous graveyard, in Ratanakkiri’s Andong Meas district, a group of NGOs have claimed.

The land dispute involving 196 families living in Talav commune dates back to 2011, Chhay Thy, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, who has been investigating the logging with representatives from three other NGOs, said yesterday.

“These companies have been clearing protected forest, farmland and indigenous graveyards to plant rubber plantations,” he said, adding that the actions represented the destruction of the villagers’ cultural and spiritual traditions along with their economic livelihoods.

In Vuthy, a representative from the Cambodian Defenders Project (CDP), another NGO involved in the research, said yesterday that the investigation into the operations of companies Veasna Investment, CRD, Heng Brother and Krong Pok Ratanakkiri Rubber Development would be published in a report.

“It’s a remote area bordering Vietnam and Laos that was once forest but has now been replaced by rubber plantations,” Vuthy said, adding that representatives witnessed the clearing of an indigenous graveyard on Saturday and Sunday.

But according to Nab Bunheng, provincial deputy governor, all four of the companies are operating legally.

“Our authorities worked with the volunteer students [assigned by Prime Minister Hun Sen] to measure the affected land for the villagers,” Bunheng said, adding that any complaints involving land disputes were welcome and would be reviewed by relevant authorities.

The Kingdom began parceling land off land in Andong Meas to Heng Brother in 2009, allotting the company 2,361 hectares.

Two years later, 19,366 hectares of land were divvied up between CRD, Veasna Investment and Krong Pok Ratanakkiri Rubber Development.

All four companies could not be reached for comment before press time.

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