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Villagers fight for forest despite warning

Villagers from Svay Rieng province’s Krasaing commune have vowed to continue their protests to preserve a patch of community forest earmarked for clearing, despite receiving an official warning yesterday.

In a July 13 letter penned by Hen Sakun, governor of the Romeas Hek district, four villager representatives from the commune were ordered to stop any disruptive behaviour “affecting social security and order”.

In 2011, Mittapheap Rubber Tree Company was awarded a 1,230-hectare economic land concession to grow rubber trees in the forest claimed by the Krasaing commune villagers.

At the time, residents said it would affect over 2,700 people.

Last week, about 200 took matters into their own hands, seizing a bulldozer that was ripping up a cassava farm and handing it over to the Forestry Administration.

Scores of the villagers avow the rubber company has been clearing the forest illegally for over a year now, depleting wildlife and the supply of wood.

“The villagers have tried hard to protect the forest and they are banned – why doesn’t the district governor prohibit the company from clearing forest and issue a letter to stop clearing forest?” village representative Chab Sophat asked.

“I didn’t do anything contrary to the law, I just protect the forest.”

To contact the reporter on this story: May Titthara at titthara.may@phnompenhpost.com

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