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Villagers say Mong Reththy project threatens their land

Villagers say Mong Reththy project threatens their land

VILLAGERS in Mondulkiri province’s Keo Seima district said Monday that surveyors over the weekend had begun measuring off land in two of three villages that stand to be affected by a concession granted to a rubber company owned by business tycoon Mong Reththy.

Local villager Gos Saly said surveyors had first appeared in Keo Seima district earlier this year on behalf of the Rithy Kiri Seima Rubber Plantation company, and that this past weekend they had ramped up measurement work for a proposed plantation that he said would occupy about 40 percent of the 8,000 hectares of land in the district’s O’Am, O’Rorna and O’Sneng villages.

“It is our land because we bought it in 1997. We have letters to prove this to local authorities, but we don’t have land titles,” he said.

Eng Neang, 51, another Keo Seima resident, said local authorities had assisted the rubber company in securing the concession, but had not bothered to assist local residents in securing land titles.

WE ARE HAPPY WITH THE DEVELOPMENT COMPANY BECUASE THEY ARE OPPRESSING US POOR PEOPLE.”

“We are not happy with the development company because they are oppressing us poor people. They have never helped us, and they are robbing our rice pot,” Eng Neang said.
“I think that the authorities have taken bribes from the company,” she added.

Mong Reththy said Monday that the government had granted the 5,000-hectare land concession to his company in 2007. The surveyors, he added, had measured off territory both for the rubber plantation and for a social land concession for the villagers, who he said were living on a protected wildlife preserve.

“The villagers are confused because this will benefit them and the authorities will provide them with land titles,” Mong Reththy said.

“They live in a wild animal shelter, and it would be easy for someone to pursue a complaint against those villagers with the authorities.”

Keo Seima district Governor Sin Van Vuth said Monday that local authorities would provide the villagers with land titles after the surveying process concluded.

“About 60 percent of those villagers cooperated with us, and there are two more villages that we will survey next time,” he said.

Mong Reththy was named in a report released on Monday by the watchdog group Global Witness, which linked him to sand mining projects in Koh Kong province that the group says are destroying the livelihoods of local fishermen.

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