Villagers in Svay Rieng province’s Romeas Hek district declined a meeting yesterday with local authorities out of fear for their arrest yesterday, instead choosing to extend their protest over a rubber plantation into a fourth day.
“All the villagers were afraid that the authorities would arrest their representatives, so I did not allow the other representatives to join the meeting,” community leader Chap Sophat said yesterday.
Hem Sokun, Romeas Hek district deputy governor, said yesterday he had called the community representatives to negotiate a peaceful solution to the issue.
“I wanted both sides to succeed together to avoid a dispute, but if they did not come, how could I settle it?” he said.
Hem Sokun said that the company involved, Metapheap, had rightfully received a land concession from the provincial governor earlier this year, and he could only enforce the agreement.
About 100 villagers claiming to represent 10 villages in Krasaing commune have been protest in front of a factory belonging to Metapheap, which was granted the 1,230-hectare land concession to plant rubber.
Pol Sang, Krasaing commune chief, lamented the concession yesterday, saying the forested area brought many benefits to the local people.
Residents say nearly 3,000 people who make use of the land will be affected by the project. They say they have tilled the area since the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime and are accusing the company of bulldozing community forest. On Friday, protesters blocked Metapheap employees from clearing the area.