About 150 villagers in Romeas Hek district’s Krasaing commune in Svay Rieng province blocked bulldozers belonging to a private company that was attempting to clear a community forest yesterday, villagers said.
Mittapheap Company was awarded a 1,230-hectare economic land concession to plant rubber trees in the forest by the provincial governor this year, which residents say will affect about 2,785 people from 543 families.
Neb Thoeun, a representative of the Krasaing commune Community Forest group, said that clearing the land would affect wildlife and deplete the supply of wood.
“We protect that land because it belongs to all of us, [it is] not for the benefit of one individual,” he said.
Community forest schemes allow villagers to live in protected areas while ensuring its flora and fauna are sustainably managed, but they can be overturned if an overlapping land concession is granted.
Deputy district governor Leb Sarorn said that villagers had no right to protest against a government land concession without approval from authorities.
“They destroyed the forest in that community when they took possession of it, so the provincial governor gave the right to the company to develop it,” Leb Sarorn said, adding that villagers could apply for a social land concession.
Prak Saran, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said that villagers had filed complaints to Prime Minister Hun Sen and the National Assembly this month but had yet to receive a response.
Representatives from Mittapheap could not be reached for comment.