ALMOST 800 families from three provinces who derive their livelihood from harvesting
tree resin submitted a formal complaint to the National Assembly and Senate on March
6 against the allegedly illegal cutting of resin trees by forest concession companies.
Representatives of the 793 resin farming families from Preah Vihear, Stung Treng
and Kratie are pleading for government intervention to protect their resin plantations
from further encroachment by forest concessionaires Chenda Plywood and Everbright.
Cambodian tree resin farmers have traditionally sold the tree resin to fishing boat
Sok Sem, 45, a representative of resin farmers from Preah Vihear province where Chenda
Plywood forest concession operates, told the Post that the company reneged on an
agreement not to cut the resin trees from which the villagers have been collecting
tree resin for generations.
"Now my family has [financial] problems because I lost my resin trees which
I depend on to support my family and to send my children to school," Sem said.
"I just want the government to stop the Chenda Plywood company from cutting
the rest [of my trees]."
Chenda Plywood spokesman Thai Hong Meng dismissed the villagers' allegations, accusing
them of being manipulated by "politicians and resin smugglers".
"Chenda Plywood has no problem with [these people] because we haven't cut even
one resin tree which people haven't agreed to sell," he said.
Kratie and Stung Treng villagers blamed forest concessionaire Everbright for not
honoring compensation agreements negotiated with villagers for the cut trees.
Attempts by the Post to contact Everbright for comment were unsuccessful.
Chea Sam Ang, Deputy Director-General of the Department of Forestry and Wildlife
(DFW), said that strict rules existed to limit the harvest of resin trees within
forest concession areas.
DFW regulations limited concessionaires to harvesting trees with a minimum diameter
of 1.2 meters. Smaller diameter trees could be cut only if compensation was negotiated
with the affected resin farmers.
Sam Ang said DFW permission for cutting resin trees had been granted on the basis
that agreements had been reached with villagers regarding compensation. He added
that his department would investigate the villagers' complaints.
Neither Forest Crime Monitoring Unit (FCMU) Independent Monitor Global Witness nor
FCMU spokesmen were aware of the resin tree dispute.