More than 100 ethnic Kreung villagers protested in Ratanakkiri province’s O’Chum district yesterday after representatives of a Vietnam-based mining firm allegedly placed boundary posts around planned test drilling sites on the villagers’ land, villagers and officials said yesterday.
Six representatives from the mining company Hong Anh Ratanakkiri on Monday began placing red-colored markers around more than 100 hectares of ancestral land claimed by the Kreung from three villages, O’Chum commune chief Vong Duong said.
“The demarcation by the Vietnamese firm occupies a hundred hectares of protected forest and indigenous farmland,” Mr Duong said.
“The company arrived and installed the demarcation posts for its iron ore research without informing or cooperating with local authorities in advance, which is why it caused the chaos among the community,” he said.
According O’Chum district governor Tak Ton, the firm has been granted permission to study areas in La’ak commune, but not in O’Chum commune. He added that he has a letter from Provincial Governor Pav Horm Phan confirming that La’ak is the only commune in the district that the mining firm is allowed to dig test sites.
“We will bring villagers’ concerns to the provincial governor to ensure the study by the Vietnamese firm won’t harm indigenous farmland,” he said, adding that he will also clarify the location of the study.
Hong Anh Ratanakkiri firm could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Hong Anh Ratanakkiri is seeking a 15,400-hectare mining concession in neighboring Bokeo and O’Yadaw districts, according to Bokeo deputy district governor Sok Pov. He said the firm recently stopped test drilling in both districts.
Mr Pov also said the firm has already promised compensation to affected families in his district, although it has not provided specifics.
“Villagers in my jurisdiction whose farmland will be affected…will get great compensation,” he claimed.
Kreung villager Ye Soy, who lives in O’Chum commune, said he does not want compensation.
“I don’t want my farmland to be lost for compensation from that firm,” he said. “I need to keep my farm with good soil for my crops.”
He added that the posts are being kept in place “to keep them as the main proof…to show how this Vietnamese firm is unlawfully occupying and grabbing our indigenous farmland.”