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Jarai villagers ask UN for help in land fight

Jarai villagers ask UN for help in land fight

More than 300 ethnic Jarai families from Ratanakkiri’s O’Yadav district in longstanding land disputes with two Vietnamese land concessionaires submitted a petition to UN human rights officers yesterday asking for help.

The group, from Paknhai commune’s Lom village, have in the past directly confronted workers from firms Company 72 and Day Dong Yoeung, and appealed to local authorities to save what they claim is ancestral community land.

Village representative Romas Chvat said locals were participating in an NGO-led workshop on protest laws in Stung Treng province yesterday when they presented UN human rights officers with the petition.

“We have no land, no forest and no streams because of Vietnamese firms,” the petition said, adding that protesting villagers were threatened with arrest.

Chvat claims to have seen a company map last month that showed plans to clear virtually all 25,000 hectares in the area.

However, Lom village chief Sev Hlin disputed the allegations, saying Company 72 was granted only 900 hectares.

Although authorities are urging villagers to get their land measured by student volunteers, they do not want private land, Chvat said.

“What we want is community land,” he said.

A UN human rights officer who declined to give his name confirmed the petition had been received and would be sent to the UN office in Phnom Penh.

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