Five companies that illegally logged economic land concessions in Kratie province rather than developing the sites for agriculture had been stripped of the land, Kratie provincial governor Por Bopharith said yesterday.
At a forum on human rights and development organised by the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights and attended by more than 300 villagers, Por Bopharith said a total of 5000 hectares of concessions had been cancelled.
“We are following up on other companies receiving economic land concessions,” he said.
The companies had been contracted to develop the sites, in the Sambo and Chetborei dist-ricts, as rubber plantations.
Nuth Vanneath, president of the Phnang Ethnic Association in Sambo district, told the forum the companies holding the concessions had also used them to extort money from villagers foraging in the forest.
“The companies charge from 30,000 riels (US$7.50) to 40, 000 riels per ox cart if villagers go into the forest to cut bamboo to sell,” he said. Ethnic minorities, he said, were not against the concessions, provided land around their spirit forests and burial grounds was left alone because they “could not live without forest”.