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Villagers accuse ELC of reneging on deal

Villagers accuse ELC of reneging on deal

Nearly 200 Kuoy villagers protested yesterday at the Forestry Administration Office in Preah Vihear province to demand a Malaysian-owned company return 1,100 hectares of land and a tractor confiscated by officials last month.

Following a third meeting last month with Green Choice Cambodia – allotted a 6,423- hectare land concession in 2012 – protesters from four villages in Romny and Romtom communes in Rovieng district, reported the company continued to clear land, despite a promise to halt activity until the land dispute had been settled.

“[The company] broke the promise . . . and the Forestry Administration authorities did not intercede,” said community member Noeun Los, 33, adding that when villagers used a tractor to clear land, officials impounded it.

Since 2011, villagers have literally staked their claim to the territory with large wooden posts, and in 2013 their line was partially honoured with a 631-hectare government allocation for community development. According to Los, the land has served as essential farmland, spirit forest, graveyards since 1979.

“If the land is gone, it really affects us,” Los explained.

A representative of Green Choice Cambodia, who declined to be named, vehemently denied the villagers allegations.

“There is no further clearing as the villagers accused,” the company spokesman said.

Chey Setha, head of the Forestry Administration in the district, said that the land has been inspected and is under the company’s rightful control.

Lor Chan, a provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, however, said the company had indeed broken an agreement to delay clearing the land until a solution was reached.

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