Fourteen indigenous families from Mondulkiri province’s Dak Dam commune have sought urgent intervention from local authorities and a human rights NGO after machinery was used to clear their farmland.
The representative of the 14 Bunong ethnic groups, Yat Tay, said on Monday that farmland covering nearly 10ha – used to grow mango, jackfruit, avocado, and pineapple – was illegally bulldozed on Saturday and Monday.
“One supervisor used machinery to clear the land. They cleared all our plants, but we cannot stop them. They have many people,” he said.
He said the villagers sent a letter to Mondulkiri local authorities and human rights group Adhoc, asking them to intervene.
“The land belonged to 14 indigenous families, covering nearly 10ha. We have farmed on the land for nearly 30 years,” Tay said.
Dak Dam commune chief Chan Na told The Post on Monday that he had already received the group’s petition and letter. He told the supervisor to stop the clearing immediately and await further instructions from the authorities.
“We ordered them to stop land clearing activities temporarily while waiting for a solution. The land clearing does not impact the people’s houses. It affects only their small farms,” he added.
O’Raing district governor Norn Sunary told The Post that the incident was being investigated.
“I have ordered the commune [authority] to look into this problem to see whether the land clearing affected the villagers’ farms. As far as I know, the land still belonged to them [the villagers]. We just checked the land title to see who owns it,” he said.
Adhoc’s Mondulkiri provincial coordinator Eang Mengly said he considered the clearing of villager’s farms as an illegal act, adding that local authorities should provide justice and encourage legal responsibility from those involved.
“If the violator claimed to obtain ownership of the land, the case needs to be dealt with by legal procedures. Cambodia’s laws give priority to indigenous groups,” he said.
The man accused of overseeing the land clearing could not be reached for comment on Monday.