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Land grievances discussed

In what is being hailed as an unprecedented meeting between grassroots communities and private investors, French industrialist Vincent Bolloré yesterday met with representatives from countries, including Cambodia, involved in land disputes with companies his group owns stakes in.

Neth Prak, who represents a Bunong ethnic minority community in Mondulkiri’s Bousraa commune, attended the Paris meeting with representatives from Cameroon, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast and Liberia.

The Bolloré group is a major holder in the Socfin Group, a rubber and palm oil giant which obtained economic land concessions in Bousraa in 2007 through Socfin-KCD, a joint venture with the Khao Chuly Group

More than 800 families, mostly Bunong, claimed to be affected by the concessions, granted for rubber plantations, at the time. Most have taken relocation or compensation packages since but, according to Prak, 200 remain in dispute.

Prak said the meeting with Bolloré was “positive”, with representatives asking for independent experts to be sent to assess the individual cases, for some communal land to be given back by the firms and for further compensation to be paid for “lost resources”.

“They said they will answer in one month,” he said by phone from Paris.

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