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Lawmakers to help settle land dispute

FIVE lawmakers from various political parties who attended a public forum in Mondulkiri province’s Bousraa commune have promised ethnic Phnong communities battling two foreign rubber companies that they will take the land dispute before the National Assembly.

Chhim Savuth, the community empowerment project coordinator with the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, said that the Bousraa case underscores the downside of economic development. The case pits French-Cambodian joint rubber venture Socfin KCD and Vietnam’s Dalat Rubber Company against ethnic Phnong who say they have been stripped of communal lands

“It is the first time that we have organised a public forum in Mondulkiri, choosing Bousraa commune because villagers have been prohibited from leaving [the commune] without informing local authorities,” he said.

“The Bousraa case is a serious human rights violation.”

By Deng, a 44 year-old Phnong, said villagers felt threatened by the requirement that locals register with commune authorities before travelling outside the area. “This is because we have had a land dispute with Socfin KCD company,” she said.

Rath Sarem, a lawmaker for the Cambodian People’s Party, said commune officials merely wanted to keep track of who was entering and leaving the commune.

“I want to assure the people not to worry. No one is intimidating them,” he said. But he added that the five politicians agreed to forward the people’s complaints onto the National Assembly and other officials in the government in order to find a resolution to the dispute.

Khim Nath, a staff member at Socfin KCD, said he attended the public forum in place of the company’s manager, and that he had no power to find a resolution for the affected community.

“I just wrote down the concerns and will report to the management,” he said.

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