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Villagers fight tree deal

Villagers fight tree deal

SOME 240 villagers from Ansar Chombok commune in Pursat province have sent a formal

complaint letter to the governor asking him to reconsider his agreement with a local

businessman allowing him to harvest saplings.

Villagers said the agreement with Lim Mean was illegal. Um Huot, one of the signatories

to the letter, said also that Mean had harvested trees a month prior to obtaining

permission using villagers from outside the commune. He said Ansar Chombok villagers

wanted to convert the area to a community forest as soon as approval was granted.

"I saw them cut down young trees which we would be able to use for construction

in only a few years," he said. "These are not non-timber forest products,

yet sometimes Mean and the officials threaten us saying we are the bone in their

throat."

Mean's actions are illegal, said villagers, since he has cut young trees such as

Klong, Tbeng, Trach and Cheu Teal which they would be able to log themselves in a

few years time. They said that earlier this year Mean had felled tens of thousands

of saplings for sale.

"We are very concerned that the number of trees left will go down to zero, because

permission is not limited," the letter stated.

Ty Sokhun, director at the Forestry Department, said that the provincial authorities

were entitled to approve the cutting of trees if villagers needed them for fishing

posts and the like. However, he said, these should not be trees that might one day

be valuable as logging trees.

"I don't know about this particular situation," he said, "but I will

send an official to investigate."

Sokhun expected that the need for fishing posts would increase markedly now that

the government has handed over the remaining fishing lots under the community fisheries

scheme.

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