Families Split on Offer From Vietnamese Firm

Seventy families in Ratanakkiri province have agreed to accept a 100-hectare plot of land, bringing an end to their four-year dispute with a Vietnamese rubber company, but 156 other families refused to settle, officials said Thursday.

Deputy provincial governor Ly Vin said the 70 families, from Lumphat district’s Chey Uddom commune, agreed three weeks ago to the Daun Penh Agrico company’s offer of a 100-hectare plot that the families want to use as a “safe hill” during times of serious flooding.

“The company already cleared the land and the villagers wanted to take 300 hectares of land for their own use,” Mr. Vin said. “But we now have taken 100 hectares from the company for 70 families in Thmey village.”

A total of 226 families have been feuding with Daun Penh Agrico since 2011, when the company, was awarded a nearly 9,000-hectare economic land concession.

Dy Samy, who like all residents of Thmey village is ethnic Lao, said his family was among the 156 that did not accept the company’s offer, because the 100-hectare plot was not in a suitable location.

“I and most of the villagers did not agree with the land because the authorities did not provide the safe hill in line with what we wanted,” he said.

Mr. Samy added that the 70 families only accepted the plot because the commune chief, Kim Phat, had threatened them with arrest.

“The commune chief threatened to arrest anyone who continued to protest against the company,” he said.

Mr. Phat could not be reached for comment.

The families involved in the dispute have protested against the company on numerous occasions, but Mr. Samy said they were now too afraid to continue.

“They are worried about their safety because the authorities will use the court to arrest them any time they want,” he said.

Lumphat district governor Kong Srun denied that the villagers had been threatened.

“My authorities never threatened those people, but the company filed a complaint with the court because they attempted to occupy the company’s land,” he said.

“The company withdrew the complaint after the villagers accepted the 100 hectares,” he added.

Representatives of Daun Penh Agrico could not be reached.

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