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Disputed K'kiri land planted: villagers

Disputed K'kiri land planted: villagers

A RUBBER company belonging to Phnom Penh businesswoman Keat Kolney has begun planting rubber trees on land in Ratanakkiri province that has been the subject of a dispute with Jarai ethnic minority villagers since 2004, villagers said Wednesday.

Seven families from Kong Yu village in Ratanakkiri's O'Yadav district lost farm plots of up to one hectare each when workers employed by Keat Kolney's Progressive Farmers Association began a three-day process of measuring, digging and planting on the land, village representative Sev Twel said Wednesday.

Some 270 of the 450 hectares have already been planted with rubber trees, and in February 2007, Keat Kolney thumbprinted documents promising to halt work on the remaining 180 hectares until the case was resolved by the provincial court.

Sourng Sophea, a lawyer from the Community Legal Education Centre, described the company's actions this week as illegal and a violation of the court ruling.   

Despite fears about further losses of crop pasture as planting season approaches, villagers have taken no legal action over the recent planting, since two criminal complaints relating to the case were dismissed by the court last February.

However, Sev Twel told the Post villagers would welcome a face-to-face meeting with Keat Kolney. "We would applaud her if she would come to talk to us," he said.

The controversy arose following the 2004 sale of the 450-hectare plot, which villagers claimed they were duped into selling by claims the land was required by the prime minister for disabled army veterans.

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