Decision Final On Rubber Despite Protest

About 50 members of Ratana­kkiri province’s disbanded rubber plantation collectives demonstrated Monday outside the Justice Mini­stry in Phnom Penh, saying another rubber trader in the province had forged documents to convince the government to dissolve the groups.

The protest followed a larger de­monstration held Sunday by the “sol­idarity groups”outside the Takhmau town home of Prime Min­ister Hun Sen. The protesters are demanding the repeal of a gov­er­n­­ment order disbanding the groups.

The solidarity groups, which were officially retired last week, had acted as middlemen collecting the resin produced by rubber tappers on 1,300 hectares of plantations, which they then sold at a profit to the Tai Seng Co.

Officials and rights workers say the solidarity groups are no longer cooperatives but have instead be­come exploitative commercial en­ter­prises trying to profit from what had until recently been exclusive con­trol of resin produced on the state-owned plantations.

The Agriculture Ministry has since sought to put Tai Seng in di­rect control of the plantations and of­fer the plantation workers a greater share of the revenues they generate.

Chhe Chan, a representative of the Solidarity Groups, claimed Sun­day that the Tai Seng firm had forg­ed a statement sent to the Agricul­ture Ministry by solidarity group workers claiming that they were being exploited. It was the supposedly forged document that spurred the ministry to disband the groups, he claimed.

Officials from Hun Sen’s Cabinet, the Justice Ministry and Tai Seng Co could not be reached for comment Monday.

However Ly Phalla, director-general for rubber at the Agriculture Mi­n­istry, said the ministry had ma­de its final decision on the issue, and the complaint had nothing to do with the decision to end the groups. Solidarity group workers now have until Wednesday to vacate the plantations or agree to work for Tai Seng, Ly Phalla said.

    (Additional reporting by Phorn Bopha)


Related Stories

Latest News