Some 1,500 hectares in social land concessions granted to families in Stung Treng province are being illegally cleared and sold by the community’s land broker, according to locals and rights group Adhoc.
The forested area was allocated to 117 families in 2013 via broker Ngin Sary, who local activists say has already begun employing workers to log and sell resin trees without authorisation from the provincial authority.
“The conditions of the social land concession are not yet complete, but [Sary] has already carried out a lot of activity on it,” said Hou Sam Ol, provincial coordinator for Adhoc, to whom 93 local Cham Muslim families this week filed a complaint. “Many resin trees have been logged and this affects the income of the community.”
Villager Hang Kien claimed that Sary has also sold plots from the social land concession to newcomers from Kampong Cham province at prices of up to $1,500.
“My land was also for sale, but I pleaded with them not to take it,” he said. “I have nothing else to cultivate on and I told the land buyer ‘please have pity on me’.”
Neither the buyers nor Sary could be contacted for comment on the allegations, but provincial deputy governor, Duong Pov, acknowledged the irregular sale of land in the area, noting that the district authority was investigating the case.
He added that local authorities were also facing problems from illegal outside land-grabbers who posed a threat to Sary.
“We always allocate land for the local villagers. Resin trees are everywhere and some people took them as an excuse to grab land,” he said.