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Sugar firm, villagers in Preah Vihear face off again

Sugar firm, villagers in Preah Vihear face off again

Another in a series of standoffs between Preah Vihear villagers and sugar company Rui Feng yesterday saw 40 residents from three different districts camp out at Tbeng Meanchey district’s Brame commune in a bid to stop the company from clearing land.

The fresh impasse comes days after other groups of villagers unsuccessfully attempted to stop Rui Feng at different locations in Tbeng Meanchey and Chey Sen districts, with the firm ultimately clearing the land and dispersing villagers.

Tep Tim, one of the villagers at Brame, said residents of Cheb, Rovieng and Chey Sen districts had come to Tbeng Meanchey to support their attempts to thwart the company’s actions.

“The company continues to clear our farming land, so we hope to gather some 100 villagers to protest and stop the clearing,” she said.

As of Sunday evening, about 40 villagers had camped in the commune, with Tim saying that the company had already cleared 7 hectares of land on Saturday and begun planting sugarcane.

The dispute almost erupted into violence on January 6 when three men, presumably employees of the company, charged towards the 100 ethnic Kuoy villagers in Chey Sen with large wooden clubs.

Authorities had to intervene to prevent an escalation.

Ung Vuthy, Tbeng Meanchey district governor, said he had received a complaint from the villagers last week about the clearing, but denied the company had bulldozed villagers’ farmland.

“The company clears only the forest, not farming land. The work does not affect the land of villagers,” he said.

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