A company accused of clearing protected community forest by villagers in Ratanakkiri’s O’Yadav district is constructing a road in the area, not planting rubber trees, provincial forestry officials said yesterday.
Phan Phoeun, deputy chief of the provincial forestry administration, said that he met with more than 100 villagers and visited the site of the alleged clearing in Yatung commune’s Ten village. “After the meeting, we examined the forest, observing that the company had bulldozed the forest to build a 10-metre-wide road, instead of rubber plantations,” he said, adding that the clearing remained unfinished.
Thirty angry villagers protested against land concessionaires Men Sarun Co, Ltd and its partner, known as Company 72, on Tuesday in the same area.
Rochorm Vin, Yatung commune chief, declined to comment yesterday, directing questions to his assistant, who asked to remain unnamed. According to the assistant, the company’s land is on the other side of the villagers’ protected forest, one hectare of which needed to be cleared to construct a road for transporting equipment into the concession.
“The villagers will also be able to use it; it does not belong to the company alone,” he added.
However, community leader Sev Hem rejected that claim, arguing that the clearing was not for a road, but for more rubber trees. An additional two hectares were recently cleared by the company for planting, he said.
Chhay Thy, provincial co-ordinator for rights group Adhoc, said 1,000 hectares of the community’s protected two-by-three-kilometre forest had been razed over the last two years.