More than a month after halting construction around a disputed land concession in Ratanakkiri province, a Vietnam-based company has reportedly gone a step further and agreed to return 30 hectares of razed forest, a village representative and commune chief maintained yesterday.
Sav Nak, a village chief in the province’s O’Yadav district, which is home to ethnic Jarai minorities, said that the Chea Chanrith Development Company withdrew four items of machinery in late December after residents filed a complaint with local authorities.
Nak said only 30 of 481 hectares of community forest were cleared, and that he is requesting that the company plant trees in the empty space.
“We preserved 481 hectares for our young generation, and the authority also recognises it,” he said.
But the claims were met with doubts by Chan Mab, representative of the Chea Chanrith company, who said the issue has not been settled yet.
“It is not clear that our company has given the 30 hectares to the community. Our director has not made a decision yet,” he said, and added that the company is considering all requests.
Sav Hvan, Lumchor commune chief, said he and community leaders met with company representatives and the agreement was given “verbally”, but without a contract.
Chea Chanrith received permission from the Ministry of Agriculture in October to plant rubber trees on a 659-hectare concession in O’Yadav and Bokeo districts.
The Jarai protested once the clearing started, saying they depend on the forest for income, firewood, shelter and sanctuary for wildlife.
According to rights group Adhoc, the community, company, forestry administration officials and local authorities held a meeting in early December about the disputed property, where the Jarai asked for the 30 hectares back and requested new trees and compensation.
Recommendations were also made to demarcate an area establishing boundaries between land belonging to the company and land belonging to the community.
Nab Bunheng, provincial governor, said that he was not aware of the case.
To contact the reporter on this story: Phak Seangly at firstname.lastname@example.org