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Preah Vihear villagers seek solution to ‘encroachment’

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Land affected by gold mining operations in Romtom commune in Preah Vihear province​‘s Rovieng district. Photo supplied

Preah Vihear villagers seek solution to ‘encroachment’

Around 230 families from three villages in Romtom commune of Preah Vihear province’s Rovieng district said they are worried about the continued encroachment on their farmland by three companies which have licences for gold mining and agricultural in the area.

The villageres said they had been seeking intervention but had yet to receive a solution.

The three companies have been identified as Delcom Cambodia; Tin San, a gold mining company; and Kim Gia Thuan Group Co, Ltd, a company licensed to cultivate rubber.

Tuy Chheng, a 64-year-old resident of Romdeng village, told The Post on March 17 that his 4ha of farmland, among many other villagers’, had been affected.

Chheng said that recently, one of the three companies has also continued its land encroachment activities, affecting the land of another 10 households despite their efforts to seek intervention.

“The gold mining company keeps surrounding villagers’ farmland. On March 15 and 16, they encroached 500m from their boundary,” he said.

Eth Thon, a resident of Otrolok village who has disputed with rubber firm Kim Gia Thuan Group, told The Post that residents in his village had also submitted a petition to the Ministry of Interior for intervention in 2020.

As a result, he said district authorities in mid-March asked villagers who had thumbprints on the petition to come one by one for questioning, though nothing has come of it.

“My 4ha of bananas and other cash crops were cleared, so we complained. Then they questioned us about the thumbprints, asking who our representatives were or if anyone had forced us to do so.

“Our villagers did it voluntarily. But we were afraid and concerned when the district administration called us for questioning,” he added.

The Post could not contact the companies’ representatives for comment.

Rovieng district governor Hor Bunhuor could not be reached for comment.

Provincial governor Prak Sovann told The Post on March 17 he would assign officials to investigate further.

“I have not received new information yet, so I will contact the district authority. There has been an impact, so it’s hard for me to tell,” he said.

Lor Chan, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said: “Authorities should find a solution for those who are really affected and should also follow the government’s principles through the previous Regulation 001, which uses the so-called “tiger skin formula” to allocate land for people.”

The tiger skin formula is where the government allocates land to an entity but the land has villages on it. The villages own some of the land and certain areas to farm. The entity can use the land in areas not owned by villagers.

“Also, when the company or any conflict occurs, authorities should temporarily suspend [clearing] activities and wait for a solution before the company can continue its operations. Otherwise, as the company keep clearing land, people would lose their benefits,” he said.

The land disputes date back to 2015 and continues without a solution, with the companies accused of clearing people’s farmland.

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