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Ratanakkiri villagers accuse authorities of land grab

Ratanakkiri villagers accuse authorities of land grab

Tumpuon ethnic minorities residing in Seda commune, in Ratanakkiri province’s Lumphat district, on Monday accused authorities of colluding to sell protected land in the Lumphat Wildlife Sanctuary that they say belongs to the community.

A representative of Keng San village in Seda, Kham Nin, said on Monday that local authorities were colluding with traders to measure and clear 100 hectares of protected land.

“Our community depends on the forest where cattle are herded, we can go fishing and gather vegetables and vines,” he said.

Nin said in October, villagers filed a suit in the provincial court against 10 local authorities, including forest rangers and the district governor, accusing them of colluding in forestry crimes. The court has yet to investigate.

Nin added that in early June, he and other villagers were foraging for daily essentials when they encountered a group of people, including commune authorities, measuring land that was recently sold to a businessman.

An Adhoc official, Pen Bunna, said the destruction of natural resources has caused social disorder, environmental damage and stress for the residents.

“Some Keng San villagers used to be threatened with jail by authorities when they protested and sought help from national authorities to prevent forestry crimes, while other villagers have been investigated and accused of working with opposition groups,” he said.

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