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Ethnic minorities to protest clearing of their ancestral lands

Ethnic minorities to protest clearing of their ancestral lands

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Ratanakkiri community claims their forest has been stolen by a local businessman and fear that they will lose more if he is not stopped

AFP

A minority tribe woman enjoys a pipe in Ratanakkiri province in this file photo.

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GROUP of 50 ethnic minority Tampoun and Kreung villagers have said they will stage a demonstration today at the provincial governor's office in Ratanakkiri province to protest the clearing of 10 hectares of forest by a local businessman, according to Vin Sokhin, a community representative in Dong Kampoul village.

"Ten of the 20 hectares have been cleared of trees, and we are afraid that we will lose the rest of it if we don't protest," Vin Sokhin said.

He added that 46 families, or nearly 250 people, rely on the lands for collecting wood, vegetables and other supplies, and that since July they have been warned by labourers to stay away.

Legal title to the land

The local businessman, Seng Piseth, claims to have purchased the land legally from O'Chum District Governor Bean Thveun.

"They can protest or go to the courts if they choose, but I have all the necessary documents to prove my case," he said.

The district governor said the deal was accepted by members of the community in return for a payment of US$2,000, to be used for the benefit of all the villagers.

"We have received the $2,000 dollars and are using it for the benefit of the whole community," said Vong Doung, a village chief involved in the deal.

But Vin Sokhin disputed the claim that the villagers have received any benefit from the sale.

"We are protesting this deal, made between only a few community members," he said.

"We have not received any of this money and we don't want it. We want the land back," he added.

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