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Rubber firm is felling state forest: villagers

Villagers who confiscated land-clearing equipment during a forest patrol yesterday in Khsuem commune in Kratie province’s Snuol district are claiming the equipment belongs to a rubber concessionaire attempting to expand into state land, an allegation local authorities denied.

Villager representative Mom Sokkin said the Binh  Phuoc Katrie Rubber II Company has been attempting to clear a pocket of state land located within its concession.

A forest patrol of about 20 villagers saw several people cutting down trees  there – four of whom they apprehended and released after informing them they were on state land – and confiscated six chainsaws and a bulldozer, which they turned over to forestry authorities, Sokkin said.

In addition to the deforestation, military policemen tasked with guarding the concession have been shooting wildlife, she added.

“They are military police, but they work for the company, so they shoot monkeys and other wild animals to eat. The monkeys had no shelter, so they [also] died when they were escaping from the falling trees,” she said.

“The forest here is nearly gone.”

Though the land is not listed as community forest, she added, villagers are attempting to preserve it in hopes that it will be listed as such in the future.

Teap Sokun Pidor, chief of the commune forestry administration, said he had visited the site where villagers confiscated the equipment but maintained that the clearing had been carried out by individuals.

“There are bad people who want to grab the land there, so they clear the land,” he said.

District Governor Kong Kimny, who said he had ordered forestry officials to investigate, echoed Sokun Pidor.

“I just know that it’s not the company’s land. Those clearing the forest are outsiders from other provinces,” he said, adding that military police “protect the company’s safety, because we don’t want other people to grab the company’s land.”

Mao Rany, deputy Provincial Military Police commander, could not be reached for comment, and contact information for Phuoc Katrie Rubber II was not immediately available.

To contact the reporter on this story: Chhay Channyda at channyda.chhay@phnompenhpost.com

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