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Ratanakkiri ethnic minorities to protest against land grabs

The remote jungle province has been subject to widespread illegal logging and land grabbing that locals say is destroying traditional livelihoods

FED up with watching their ancestral burial grounds and sacred forests disappear as rampant illegal logging and land grabbing for speculation eat into their land, some 1,000 ethnic minority villagers from Ratanakkiri province are planning to protest if the authorities do not crack down on the problem, a rights group said.

Pen Bonna, provincial coordinator for the Cambodian  rights group Adhoc, said Tuesday that a demonstration is scheduled for  October 27.

"We have given the authorities two months to consider our complaint," Pen Bonna said."

We will gather to appeal to the authorities to enforce the law to save the forest and communities that rely on it."

In recent years Ratanakkiri has been the site of recurrent illegal land grabs in ethnic minority regions.

Rights groups claim that according to the 2001 Land Law, an ancestral claim to the land is enough to prove ownership, but that is not the case in practice as the rich and powerful work through corrupt local officials to acquire land.

Approximately 3,300 hectares of forest have been logged in the last eight months to make way for large multinational companies to move onto the land, affecting 10,000 villagers in 49 forest communities, Pen Bonna said.

Muong Poy, governor of Ratanakkiri province, said the villagers alerted authorities of their plan to demonstrate but said he is still waiting for the government to grant permission.

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