Two ethnic minorities are battling for the same land in Mondulkiri’s Pech Chreada district, villagers say.
Ethnic Phnong villagers told the Post yesterday that more than 100 families migrated to the area and have cleared between 400 to 500 hectares of indigenous land – including the village graveyard – since April 2013.
“We patrol at daytime, so we saw only the felled trees, because most of the time they log at night,” said Kros Sok, 35, a Phnong community leader in Bousraa commune.
The Phnong villagers discovered over 90 pieces of luxury timber yesterday, and are searching for loggers in order to file a lawsuit, according to Mob Chhing, 28, a Phnong villager.
“We found the timber in the forest about 30 metres from the police office,” she said.
The Phnong villagers allege that the timber was felled from their community forest and then sold to local police by the migrant families, Cham Muslims who moved from Kampong Cham, Svay Rieng and Prey Veng to an adjacent social land concession.
“Our forest is logged without any intervention from the authorities,” Sok said.
Sok Ratha, Mondulkiri provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, confirmed that a former provincial governor awarded land in the commune as a social concession for Cham migrants to settle. “The land concession overlaps at the [Phnong] graveyard and the community forest,” Ratha said.
District governor Nuon Saron could not be reached yesterday, but district council member Preum Blav denied that the concession overlaps with the indigenous community area.
Neither Adhoc nor the district police could provide a contact for a Cham community representative.