LOCAL and international NGOs have accused Mondulkiri province authorities of blocking their research on the environmental impact of mineral investment by preventing them from speaking to minority people living in affected areas.
Em Sopheak, a legal officer from Community Legal Education Centre, said that his organisation, along with other NGOs, had received permission from the provincial governor and authorities in Pech Chenda district's Krong Tes commune to conduct a two-week workshop from May 17-30 on the impact of mining operations in Mondulkiri.
But he said local police kept watch over researchers when they went to meet with people and collect the information about their livelihoods.
"The police warned that they would arrest us if we tried to meet and ask the people in this village about the impact of mineral investment on the environment," he said.
The Chinese High Land Mineral Co and Golden Metal, a firm from Vietnam, have been prospecting for minerals in the province, Em Sopheak said, bulldozing thousands of hectares and disrupting the traditional rotational farming practices of ethnic minority Phnong living in the area.
Sam Sarin, provincial coordinator of the rights group Adhoc, also said that police in Krong Tes commune "attempted to keep the people and NGOs in isolation from one another".
Yim Mak, Pech Chenda district police chief, said that the group of NGOs did not inform him or other police about their activities with the people in Krong Tes commune.
"We demanded that they present a provincial letter of permission, but they did not show it. We need to stop their activity because we are afraid about [the Phnong communities'] safety," he said.
But Mondulkiri Governor Pan Navan said he had pledged to allow the NGOs to conduct workshops on the environmental impact of mineral investment. "We welcome all the NGOs who want to improve our people," he said.