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Villagers halt workers in land dispute

Ethnic Lao villagers living in Rattanakiri’s Lumphat district have prohibited 30 workers with the Hang Anh Lumphat company from planting oil palm on disputed territory.

Yesterday, more than 10 village residents and security guards halted the Vietnamese company from moving forward with their planting plans, despite the fact that the company cleared the land months ago.

“We protested, and prevented them from growing [oil palm],” village security personnel Keo Oddum said. “The company’s workers . . . wanted to plant oil palm on 2 hectares of our village’s land.”

Oddum added that the land – more than 23 hectares that were certified as the village’s under the premier’s land measurement scheme – has been consistently infringed upon by the company

“I have asked the company three times since 2014 [to stop clearing], but it’s been useless. They keep clearing more land,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mean Promony, a provincial investigator for local rights group Adhoc, said another 15 hectares of land belonging to the village are under threat of clearance.

Promony said the NGO will forward the village’s complaint to the court this weekend. A fence built by villagers around another plot of disputed land after a rise in tensions is still standing, he added.

Lumphat District Governor Kong Srun said he received a report about the dispute yesterday and will inspect the site today.

“We will inspect the site, and if they [village residents] have the certificate, we will give the land back to them,” he said.

Hang Anh Lumphat rep Chang Vanvoeng could not be reached yesterday.

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