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Illegal-logging claims rejected

Provincial forestry administration officials in Ratanakkiri have dismissed allegations of illegal logging by community residents and chalked the deforestation up to legitimate clearing.

A cursory examination of the land in question yesterday seemed to back the company’s claims, Ly Sophan, a team worker at the provincial Forestry Administration office, told the Post, although the area will still be mapped.

“According to the actual examination, nearly one hectare of forest has been bulldozed,” Sophan said.

“We are preparing a geographic map in a bid to determine whether this plot is a land concession of the company or community land.”

Earlier this week, villagers told the Post two Vietnamese companies in O’Yadav district were endangering the traditional lifestyle of as many as 200 ethnic-minority families by pressuring the groups to sign individual land titles to five-hectare plots.

Villagers also accused the firms, Company 72 and Day Dong Yoeung, of using their economic land concession for a rubber plantation as a ruse to illegally harvest luxury timber and export it to Vietnam.

Sophan brushed aside this conspiracy theory.

“The company only needs the land for its rubber plantation; it doesn’t need the timber. How else is it going to get rid of the timber?” he said.

Sav Hlin, the Lom village chief who accompanied forestry officials on their investigations, said he had found about 60 tree trunks on the ground and maintained the bulldozed land belonged to the ethnic community.

“I deeply regret that the forest we want to be seen by our next generation was bulldozed. We claim the forested land under our ownership, whereas the company claims otherwise,” Hlin said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Phak Seangly at seangly.phak@phnompenhpost.com

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