More than 40 hectares of protected forest in Rattanakiri’s O’Yadav district was razed by a Vietnamese company over the course of six days before they were stopped yesterday by villagers and investigators from rights group Adhoc, a local official said.
Sav Hlin, a village chief in the district, said he had received news from villagers that the company – known to them as Company 72 – had been working in the area.
“After I found out they were clearing the forest, we went straight there to stop the vehicles immediately,” said Hlin, who added that more than 40 hectares of the forest land had been cleared by the time he got there with a group of villagers and two Adhoc investigators.
The forest lies adjacent to a 6,000 hectare economic land concession awarded to Men Sarun Company for a rubber plantation, said Adhoc senior investigator Pen Bonnar.
Company 72 had been sub-contracted by Men Sarun Company to clear the land and prepare it for planting.
Phan Phoeun, deputy chief of the provincial Forestry Administration, confirmed that the forest had been cut out from the ELC and set aside for the community.
This is not the first time Company 72 has been in the news for clearing protected forest. The company was summonsed by the Ratanakkiri Provincial Court to face accusations of illegal logging in February.
But their latest actions have led to additional destruction of the forest by villagers, who are also taking their axes to the trees in the belief that if they did not cut them down for their own use, the trees would be cleared by the company anyway, Bonnar said.
The company has also reportedly told villagers in the past to stop protesting and urged them to instead come work on the company’s rubber plantations.
“[Company 72’s actions] stand in opposition to government policy, which does not allow protected forest to be cleared,” said Bonnar, adding that Adhoc would report the case to the government for legal action to be taken.
The Men Sarun Company couldnot be reached for comment.