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Villagers target new rubber plantation

Villagers target new rubber plantation

About 100 armed residents from 10 villages in Svay Rieng province took part in a third day of protest yesterday in front of the office of a company that was granted a concession last year to turn a forest into a rubber plantation.

The protesters in Romeas Hek district’s Krasaing commune were armed with knives and hoes to protect themselves in the event of a confrontation with police, they said yesterday.

It follows the granting of a 1,000 hectare land concession that village representative, Chap Sophat, said had affected about 1,785 people who depended on the land.

“We have been planting on that land since 1979, why did the government grant it as an economic land concession to the company?” he said.

The protest began last Friday when the company’s employees were blocked from bringing an excavator to clear the forest by villagers, he added.

Hem Sokun, deputy governor of Romeas Hek district, said yesterday a roughly 1,230 hectare economic land concession had been granted to the Metapheap company earlier this year.

He had invited village representatives to negotiate a suitable outcome for all parties today, but he said as of the moment, the provincial governor had not acknowledged their argument yet.

“The provincial governor has the right to get the land back from villagers because they take over state land illegally,” he said.

Pol Sang, Krasaing commune chief, said yesterday he supported the villagers’ position and did not know why the provincial governor had granted the land concession to the company. Prak Saran, provincial Adhoc coordinator, said yesterday villagers relied on the forest for their livelihoods in an otherwise barren area.

Metapheap company representatives could not be reached for comment yesterday.