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Ratanakkiri complaint filed

A GROUP of 72 ethnic Jarai families on Wednesday filed a complaint at Ratanakkiri provincial court against a Cambodian company they have accused of illegally clearing 15 hectares of communal farmland.

Pen Bonnar, provincial coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, said the complaint states that the Hou Ly Company began clearing the slash-and-burn farmland on May 14. The company has plans to develop a rubber plantation on the land, which is located in O’Yadav district.

“I went to the scene on Tuesday, and saw that the company had cleared an area of cassava and cashew nut trees, which belongs to the villagers,” Pen Bonnar said. “By law, slash-and burn-farmland that belongs to indigenous people cannot be sold because it is community land.”

Representatives of the villagers, who live in Saom Thom commune’s Saom Trork Chas village, first filed a complaint to the court in March 2008 accusing residents of nearby Pork Par village of illegally selling the farmland to the company.

Hou Ly on Thursday defended the purchase as legal, and said he was “willing to meet with the villagers to address the problem”.

District Governor Dork Sar said Thursday that he had approved the transfer, and contended that the Pork Par villagers “had the right to sell that land because they had been working there for 10 years already”.

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