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Ethnic Kuoy villagers from Brame commune
Ethnic Kuoy villagers from Brame commune gather earlier this month during a protest against two Chinese firms they accused of clearing community land. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Kuoy, Phnong air grievances

Minority Kuoy and Phnong community members from Preah Vihear and Mondulkiri provinces are demanding that the government cancel economic land concessions granted to two Chinese companies and a Vietnamese firm for allegedly violating land laws.

In a press conference yesterday in Phnom Penh, representatives from the Kuoy ethnic group in Preah Vihear’s Brame commune and the Phnong ethnic minority in Mondulkiri’s Keo Seima district condemned the Chinese-owned firms Rui Feng International and Lan Feng, as well as the Vietnamese company Binh Pheuk 1.

In Preah Vihear, Rui Feng and Lan Feng have allegedly cleared 10,000 hectares of forest, ancient temples and farmlands and filled bodies of water with sediments, which negatively impacted the commune’s natural resources, according to Kuoy representative Ouk Peurn, 72. “The 99-year land concession is putting us and our next generations in danger,” Peurn said.

Late last month, villagers held hostage two company drivers overnight before releasing them after negotiations were promised. The talks then stalled.

Phnong ethnic minorities in Mondulkiri, on the other hand, claimed that the Vietnamese company Binh Pheouk 1 cleared 1,500 hectares of land from 211 families in the area, including a graveyard.

“The authorities are looking down on people and intimidating the villagers instead,” said Phnong representative Brok Chib, 73.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said the government is looking into the issue to ensure that villagers have ample shelter.

“But in some cases, the villagers are just colluding to grab land and sell it,” Siphan said.

Separately yesterday, representatives of 83 families in Lor Peang commune in Kampong Chhnang gathered in front of the National Assembly, pressing authorities to hurry up and find a solution for their ongoing dispute with the KDC International company.

According to representative Om Sophy, four months have passed since they were promised a fix, and KDC has since erected fences on disputed land, preventing farming.

“It does not mean that the National Assembly is ignoring the complaint, we are negotiating but we need to compromise to settle down the dispute,” said human rights commission chair Eng Chhai Eang.
The three companies could not be reached.

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