Opposition party lawmaker Son Chhay has spent the past two days hearing the grievances of residents fighting land grabbing in Ratanakkiri province and plans to submit a report to the National Assembly on his findings.
Chhay is focusing on O’Yadav district, where several Vietnamese companies have disputes with ethnic Jarai villagers.
“As a parliamentarian in this country, I have to fulfil my obligation to help the people who are the victims of economic land concessions within the country,” Chhay said.
Chhay said he “patrolled” in the district’s Lam village, Pak Nai commune, on May 19 and 20, to collect evidence of illegal forest clearing.
“I met with different Jarai people, and they submitted to me about 20 complaints of land disputes that affect their community, and I will make a report with evidence, and will submit it to the National Assembly and will invite Prime Minister Hun Sen to offer an explanation,” Chhay said.
Chhay said he also visited land belonging to Vietnamese company 72, and found about 200 workers from Vietnam laboring in the rubber plantation. Company 72’s name frequently comes up when Jarai villagers speak about the loss of their communal forests.
Chhay Thi, provincial co-ordinator for rights group Adhoc, said that company owned an economic land concession covering 9,000 hectares, and that the loss of property used to set up the plantation has adversely affected hundreds of families.
“Individual families were not able to protect their land by themselves, and local authorities threatened to arrest people who dared to protest against the company,” Thi said.
Sev Chean, a 32-year-old villager who accompanied Chhay said that the villagers in the commune believe he can help resolve their problems.
“We are afraid of being arrested now, that’s why we dare not protest while the company is clearing our land,” Chean said. “Why can the company clear the land, and we, the community, cannot [stop them]?”
Poy Chrouch, Pak Nhai commune police chief, denied any intimidation in the form of arrests.