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Replacement land readied in M'kiri plantation dispute

Replacement land readied in M'kiri plantation dispute

090703_03
A tractor belonging to Socfin KCD in Bou Sraa commune.

AUTHORITIES in Mondulkiri's Bou Sraa commune have begun measuring the land of local Phnong minorities displaced by a French-Cambodian rubber plantation in order to establish compensation claims, but local villagers remain sceptical that they will receive allotments equivalent to what they lost.

Mondulkiri Deputy Governor Yim Lux said Thursday that authorities had so far measured the land of 37 affected families in Pouteut village and would offer them the same amount as they lost to the 10,000-hectare rubber concession.

"It is up to them - they can either receive cash compensation or accept land," he said, adding that his authorities and the Socfin KCD rubber company had already provided compensation to 172 impacted families in six villages in Bou Sraa commune.

He said some families agreed to accept financial compensation, whereas others accepted a plot of land.

History of distrust
Though they say they have been promised sufficient land, villagers remain unsure whether the pledges will be honoured.

"The authorities have just made promises, but in reality I have heard some people complain that they had 5 hectares of land, but that the authorities have only offered them 2 hectares," said a community representative who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The representative added that villagers were waiting to see whether the authorities would be able to put an end to the long-running dispute, which started when the company began clearing land in late 2007 and came to a head in December, when villagers torched and smashed company machinery in Bou Sraa village.

"We will not agree to other compensation. We only want the same amount of land that we used to have," the representative said.

Kul Midy, a community trainer with the local rights group Adhoc, said authorities should take into account the cultural and economic significance of the forested land lost to the rubber plantation.

"The authorities should organise an area separate from the plantation, allowing the community to live and conduct rotational farming according to their traditions," he said.

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