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Indigenous village members inspect a lumber mill in Ratanakkiri
Indigenous village members inspect a lumber mill in Ratanakkiri’s Andong Meas district earlier this month in an ELC belonging to Jing Ly Investment Company. ADHOC

Villagers want ELC revoked

Hundreds of indigenous families from Ratanakkiri’s Andong Meas district have demanded the government cancel the economic land concession of a Vietnamese rubber company that they say is illegally prospecting for gold.

About a dozen people representing 384 families handed a petition to CNRP lawmakers yesterday requesting Jing Ly Investment Co’s ELC be scrapped.

In the letter, organised by the rights group Adhoc, the group accused the company of clearing 150 hectares of some 784 hectares of forest reserved for the indigenous communities.

As well as logging since 2011, the company has breached the terms of its contract by grabbing protected “common areas” and searching the region for illegal gold mines, according to Adhoc’s Ratanakkiri provincial coordinator Chhay Thy.

However, Angdong Meas Governor Norng Darith called the allegation false, saying the company – which was granted 1,900 hectares to plant rubber in 2010 – had only cleared its allocated plot.

“The community was not granted a plot of land by the government,” he said.

“The government granted the land to the company, so if they don’t clear the site, how can they plant rubber?” he said.

He said the company had not looked for gold.

“That was another company exploring for a gold mine legally,” he said.

The region is home to indigenous Tampuon and Jarai communities who have lived in Kahol and Jarai villages, respectively, since 1979. They rely on the forest and rotating traditional farms to survive.

The communities – who have asked the CNRP to pass their petition on to the prime minister’s office – say the company’s logging of dense and lakeside forests had impacted their water supply.

Mam Phan, 44, one of 12 community representatives to add a thumbprint to the petition, said their communities and culture were being ruined.

“The company security guards ban us from entering and taking what we need from the forest,” he said. “Those who dare to log timber for building their homes are threatened.”

A representative of Jing Ly Investment Co could not be reached yesterday.

Thousands of locals and migrant workers are suspected of engaging in illegal mining in Ratanakkiri.

After a recent official inspection tour of the province, Meng Saktheara, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Mines and Energy, called the practice rampant, saying that everything from metal to precious gems, gold and sand for construction was being sought in the great rush.

Saktheara said crackdowns were difficult because sites were often remote and miners often returned after raids.

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