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Ratanakkiri villagers protest land clearing

Ratanakkiri villagers protest land clearing

Dozens of ethnic minority Tompuon villagers protested yesterday against the destruction of an area in Ratanakkiri province’s Lumphat Wildlife Sanctuary that is used as a community forest.

Community representative Tuy Nheb, one of more than 30 villagers demonstrating outside of Seda commune hall on behalf of 215 affected families, said that a company owned by Okhna Roth Sakhorn has been clearing hundreds of hectares of vital community forestland since August.

That area “is a jungle, and we have filed a letter to the provincial authorities over the last two weeks asking for it to be registered as a communal forest, but the company has cleared about 200 hectares already”, he said. “We demand for a halt [to its destruction], and for discussion.”

The villagers ended their four-hour protest yesterday after the company, which shares its owner’s name, agreed to suspend its activities for one week.

Nou Ther, deputy governor of Lumphat district, said that the area fell within an economic land concession awarded to the company.

“The villagers disagree because they do not understand . . . The company has rights and the logging was done legally and it was inspected by the forest officers as well,” Ther said.

But Chhay Thy, Ratanakkiri provincial coordinator for local rights group Adhoc, said the company was at risk of violating a government order that reduced its ELC from 9,000 hectares to 600.

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