Authorities in Preah Vihear province’s Chheb district yesterday backed villagers who seized bulldozers owned by a Chinese company that was clearing community land and has long been embroiled in land disputes in the area, according to local residents.
About 100 villagers took possession of two bulldozers owned by the Rui Feng company and detained the drivers, who they said were clearing property the community uses as grazing land, said villager Sath Say, 63.
The incident was not the first time villagers had stopped and held machinery owned by the company and its affiliates.
“They had promised not to clear that area and they’ve cleared almost all of our forest . . . They even bulldozed the demarcation posts – they cleared about a dozen hectares,” Say said.
“The district governor, police, military and company came to compromise with the villages . . . They promised not to do it again and if they do, [the authorities] said villagers can do whatever they want to.”
Reached yesterday, district police chief Chhuon Mady said the district governor had resolved the problem, but was unable to give further details about the incident.
When asked who was at fault in the incident, Mady said he didn’t know. “I was only checking on security.”
Representatives of the company, which was granted an 8,841-hectare economic land concession in 2011 to cultivate sugarcane, rubber and acacia, could not be reached for comment yesterday.
The company’s concession, which is surrounded by ELCs owned by its sister companies, has been trimmed by 1,000 hectares in a bid to quell ongoing protests by local villagers.