More than 300 activists from Kampong Thom province’s Prey Lang Community Network were stopped by district police yesterday as they were marching from the Vietnamese-owned CRCK Company to deliver a lawsuit in Sandan district calling for the postponement of alleged forest clearing and the “invasion” of farms that villagers claim as their own.
Network representative Heoun Sopheap said the police stopped the activists at a checkpoint and made a big show of checking everyone’s driving licences.
“We were gridlocked for about 30 minutes. We tried to go on another road, because we don’t want to have a problem with police,” he said.
“They had no reason to check driving licences in the forest.”
Activists gathered in front of the district hall, but the district governor only allowed 10 representatives to meet with him.
“The governor pledged that he’ll visit the Vietnamese company on February 15, and then he went out from the meeting without saying anything.”
Another representative, Seth Seng, said the meeting was a waste because authorities made promises they wouldn’t keep.
Sandan district governor Sim Sovanna said he’s seen no evidence of illegal forest clearing, but police were nevertheless investigating.
“If we find out that the company has broken the law on villagers and community lands, we will respond in kind.”
According to rights group Adhoc, the government has granted at least 33 companies about 100,000 hectares-worth of land concessions in Prey Lang.
Government data shows CRCK was granted more than 6,000 hectares of land in May 2010 for a rubber plantation in Kampong Thom’s Sandan district, with a 70-year contract.
CRCK representatives could not be reached for comment.
To contact the reporter on this story: May Titthara at [email protected]