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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Jarai ethnic group takes stand on spirit forest

Jarai ethnic group takes stand on spirit forest

More then 100 Jarai families in Ratanakkiri’s O’Yadav district have rejected a government proposal to measure their land, saying it would pave the way to turning over a spirit forest to the families of police and soldiers.

“The authorities convened us to meet a few times, asking about measuring the land. We did not agree to meet with them,” said Rocham Cham, 40, a member of the Jarai community.

“In our village, there is no forest anymore for our ancestor spirit, so we wish to preserve it for them and for our ethnic identification.”

Dork Sar, O’Yadav district governor, said Jarai ethnic minorities from three villages last month submitted letters to district authorities, requesting that they preserve between 300 and 400 hectares of forest in Paknhai commune that has been slated to house families of 10 soldiers and police.

“We got the letters, but it is difficult [to rule on], because we do not have a specific map. We have to be careful about this, or it might overlap with an economic land concession,” he said.
According to Sav Hlin, chief of Lom village, the families have been in the area since 2005.

“The soldiers and police prefer to live at this site, because it’s along the road. If [the authorities] agree, the volunteer students will measure the land,” he said, adding that all parties were still in discussions over how to negotiate a deal.

Chhay Thi, provincial co-ordinator for rights group Adhoc, said he was aware of the case but had not yet visited the site.

“If the authority plans to measure for soldiers, it must be in legal accordance with government policy. If there is irregularity in the process, I will intervene to help,” he said.

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

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