District and military police in Ratanakkiri raided an illegal gem mine inside a Chinese company’s land concession on Saturday but failed to make any arrests, according to a rights group representative.
Chhay Thy, provincial coordinator for Adhoc, said about 200 illegal gem miners had settled on an old rubber plantation granted to the Swift Rubber Company in Laminh commune’s Trum village.
“The miners set up more than 100 camps at the plantation, where they used devices such as iron bars, logs, wood, strings and baskets for illegal and haphazard mining,” he said.
Mao Sun, Bakeo district police chief, confirmed that no one was arrested in the raid.
“When they saw our forces, they just ran into the forest,” he said, adding that Swift Rubber had requested that police evict the miners. “They are Cambodian people who often search the mine to support their families.”
Chhay Thy said it was unclear for whom the workers were illegally extracting the gems.
“Collusion may have been behind this case; otherwise, hundreds of miners would not have been able to work the company land. We asked the miners, and they said they dug for their boss, but they did not say who their boss is,” he said.
Adhoc is investigating a dispute between Swift Rubber and 120 families in Ratanakkiri’s O’Chum district, who claim they are being evicted without compensation from the firm’s 3,000-hectare concession.
A Swift Rubber representative – who could not be reached yesterday – said in May that the families are living illegally on company property.