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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Way of life vanishing: villagers

A local resident stands in a section of deforested land and inspects the remains of a resin tree that was felled recently
A local resident stands in a section of deforested land and inspects the remains of a resin tree that was felled recently. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Way of life vanishing: villagers

Since 2011, an estimated 3,000 resin trees have been illegally razed by rogue loggers and a land concessionaire operating in Mondulkiri’s Sen Monorom district, villagers claimed yesterday.

Resin trees are a vital source of income for the Phnong ethnic community in Sokdom commune, according to Thleuk Phearom, 32, the daughter of a representative of Lao Ka village.

About 100 resin trees that Phearom had relied upon have been felled this year, she said.

“Since November, a land concession company called Villas Development and illegal loggers have cut 40 trees.”

As well as losing the trees themselves, Phearom said, villagers had not been adequately compensated for their losses.

Villas Developments’ offer to compensate villagers 15,000 riel ($3.75) per tree, according to Phearom, is an unfair price considering how much resin can fetch at market.

Tapping young trees for resin once or twice a week can produce between two and three litres. With a price tag of up to 3,200 riel per litre, resin is an important source of income many villagers can’t afford to lose, Phearom says.

Both Phearom and Sam Orn Vannra, another local villager, noted that up to 30,000 riel can be earned from selling the vines and bamboo shoots co-habitating with the resin trees, and more from harvesting honey, a litre of which can be sold for up to 40,000 riel.

But Deputy Governor Yoem Luch, who said his wife and friends are in control of the economic land concession on which the trees are being felled, said villagers had agreed to payment.

“We already compensated the villagers 20,000 riel per tree,” Luch said.

Forestry Law prohibits the felling of resin trees due to their importance to forest communities.

Commune chief In Iev said Villas Development had been clearing the area since 2010 and properly compensating the villagers. Other officials could not be reached.

Contact details for Villas Development were unavailable.

“We villagers live and depend on these natural resources. But when the forest is gone, the resources will disappear too. What can we depend on then?” Phearom asked.

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