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Jarai ethnic minority claim forest razed

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A bulldozer operated by an employee of the Chea Chanrith Development company clears a patch of disputed land in Ratanakkiri province’s O’Yadav district yesterday, Sunday, Nov.25, 2012. Photograph supplied

The custodians of a community forest in Ratanakkiri have accused a company of illegally bulldozing their protected jungle.

Sen Youn, a representative of the Jarai ethnic minority in O’Yadav district’s Lumchor commune, said yesterday an investigation with rights groups had uncovered that the Chea Chanrith Development company had illegally cleared 40 hectares of protected forest.

“I ask for intervention from authorities and human-rights groups because we are afraid our forest is being grabbed and there will be no more resources for us to earn [a living] from.”

Company representatives could not be reached for comment yesterday, but deputy provincial forestry admninstration chief Phan Poeun said he was collecting relevant information about the case after recieving a complaint from the Jarai community.

Lumchor commune chief Sev Thvan said the company had a licence from the Ministry of Agriculture, granted in October, allowing it to bulldoze 659 hectares in Bakeo and O’Yadav districts.

“The permission from the ministry is to clear the land, but [they] must make sure it does not affect the people’s land. If it’s affected, the company must stop and wait for the solution,” Thvan said.

Chhay Thi, provincial co-ordinator for the rights group Adhoc, said four tractors had been clearing jungle in an area known as O’Changva, in Lae village at Phnom [mountain] Trou, where there were stands of luxury timber.

“We see that the company did not inform the commune authority. Normally, when there is clearing, a company must inform them,” he said.

The Jarai community forest had been recognised since 2010 by provincial authorities, which had maps clearly delineating their claim.

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

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