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Villagers claim razing illegal

Villagers claim razing illegal

6 ratanakkiri ethnic villagers
Villagers gather at a community hall in Ratanakkiri province’s O’Chum district yesterday to seek a resolution to their land dispute with a Chinese rubber company they claim has grabbed their land. Photo Supplied

One hundred villagers gathered in protest at O’Chum commune hall in Ratanakkiri yesterday morning after a Chinese company bulldozed their crops in an effort to force them off company-leased rubber plantations without compensation, they said.

Ros Tri, 53, a protestor from Trang Chorng village, claimed his crops were razed earlier this month.

“I have been living on five hectares of rubber plantation since 1994. I also plant crops, but the company has banned me from planting this month,” he said.

Chin Sarun, 38, said some illiterate villagers like herself had been conned into agreeing to a document that stated they were living temporarily on the land and would leave on the company’s request.

“The company and authorities lied to us. They lured us into giving our thumbprints, telling us it was for a census,” she said.

O’Chum commune chief Khanh Sovy said the villagers were living on state land that was granted to Chinese company Swift Rubber Limited under an economic land concession from the government.

“We are trying to find a solution, but they will probably have to move out because it is company land,” she said.

A company staffer, Pan Kiri Vuth, said villagers are not allowed to build additional homes or plant new crops on the land, adding that the concession covered more than 3,000 hectares of rubber plantation.

“Some rubber trees are old, and we need to cut them down and replant for the government,” he said.

Chhay Thi, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said that authorities should solve the problem first before forcing families who have lived there for years to leave.

“They have to compensate them or give them social land concessions, because the authorities have also recognized [the villagers’ land] with some legal documents,” he said.

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