Kampong Thom provincial authorities ruled yesterday that forest at the centre of a disputed between local residents and a private company was government land.
Last week about 400 villagers from Preah Vihear, Stung Treng and Kampong Thom provinces entered Prey Lang forest, one of Cambodia’s largest at about 200,000 hectares, and demanded that the CRCK
Rubber Development Company stop clearing land they described as community land that they depended on for their livelihoods.
Kampong Thom deputy governor Uth Sam An said yesterday that the forest is not community-owned land, but belonged to a previous company that purchased a land concession, adding that villagers were confused about the borders of their community-protected land.
“Villagers spoke about the [community] land in Prey Lang forest, but they did not know where the location was,” he said.
He added that CRCK Rubber Development Company, which is Vietnamese-owned, had requested a 10,000 hectare land concession to develop rubber plantations in Kampong Thom’s Sandan district in May of last year, but received only 6,044 hectares after careful consideration by the government of the effects on the environment, economy and local population.
“If it was a community forest the government would not touch it whatsoever and would leave it for the community to protect,” Uth Sam An said yesterday, adding that villagers stopped protesting after authorities clarified the confusion around the land concession.
Nguon Nhel, first deputy president of the National Assembly, said that villagers had not complained to the National Assembly about the development of the disputed land at the time, so the Council of Ministers allowed the company to proceed.
“When I get complaints from the people, I always appoint officials to solve the problem and some people are pleased with the solution … but we must find an acceptable solution for them,” he said.