MORE than 60 ethnic minority families in Ratanakkiri province filed a complaint with Lumphat district authorities on Tuesday, alleging that a rubber company has threatened villagers and prevented them from accessing state land, villagers said.
Yan Than, 49, a representative of an ethnic Tampuon village in Patang commune, said that villager Noy Kea went into the forest on June 17 to extract resin, but was blocked by representatives of DM Group, which has been embroiled in a land dispute with local residents since 2007.
“Forest land is state land. Ethnic minority villagers depend on the forest for their living,” he said. He added that more than 60 families thumbprinted a complaint that was sent to Lumphat district Governor Kong Srun on Tuesday.
“I want the district governor to intervene because the company is not allowing villagers to take resin anymore,” he said.
Since 2007, residents have claimed 260 hectares of land lying inside DM Group’s rubber plantation, saying it previously belonged to the community.
Kong Srun said Tuesday that he was aware of the dispute, but that he had not yet received the complaint. He added that ethnic minority people were free to exploit the forest for resources such as resin as long as they did not enter private land. “I want to meet villagers to ask them how I can solve the problem,” he said. “I do not know yet who is right or who is wrong.”
Say Chamroeun, a representative of DM Group, denied any wrongdoing on the part of his staff, and accused the villagers of trying to “provoke the dispute everywhere”.
“This is the company’s land; if they are our workers, we will allow them to go in 24 hours a day, but they are not. So they have no business on the land,” he said.