Amid mounting calls for government intervention to stop the destruction of indigenous land by a Vietnamese rubber company in Ratanakkiri province’s O’Yadaw district, the Forestry Administration has begun investigating claims that the firm is logging illegally and clearing land outside of its concession, officials said yesterday.
Local authorities and ethnic Jarai villagers living in the area have accused the Day Dong Yoeun company—which was granted a 4,000-hectare economic land concession in 2007—of large-scale illegal logging, illegal export of the wood to Vietnam and, most recently, the bulldozing of a traditional indigenous graveyard.
Phan Phoeun, deputy chief of the provincial Forestry Administration, said that since Sunday, forestry officials have been investigating the extent of the company’s logging operation and the destruction of the graveyard.
“We went there yesterday morning to…make a report to send to the provincial governor and the [national] government about logging inside the land concession,” he said.
Mr. Phoeun said that following numerous complaints by villagers, as well as by rights group Adhoc, the Forestry Administration ordered the company to cease all activities on December 30.
“But Day Dong Yoeun continued [to clear land] using three bulldozers to clear Jarai graves outside its land concession,” Mr. Phoeun said.
Chhay Thy, provincial investigator for Adhoc, said that Day Dong Yoeun on Friday cleared a 100-meter-by-150-meter swath of land where the Jarai residents of nearby Yamor village bury their dead, destroying about 1,500 graves. Mr. Thy said he would file a complaint with the provincial governor today.
District governor Dork Sar urged the company to compensate the villagers by paying for a traditional ceremony to appease their ancestors.
“This is illegal clearing and violates the traditions of the Jarai people,” Mr. Sar said. “We need the company to pay for a ceremony, because people here believe that the ghosts will break their necks or cause them to live without peace.”
Indigenous rights groups have joined Adhoc in asking the government to cancel Day Dong Yoeun’s concession and begin criminal proceedings against its owners.
“If the company doesn’t respect the relevant laws or sub-decrees, or agreement of the land concession, the government has the right to cancel,” said Sal Vansay, director of the Indigenous Communities Support Organization.
Thun Sarath, spokesman for the Forestry Administration, said that the destruction of forested land is illegal in all cases.
“If the company felled trees to make money…it is completely wrong because they destroyed state property,” he said.
He added that if the Forestry Administration finds sufficient evidence that Day Dong Yoeun has broken the law, provincial authorities should request that Prime Minister Hun Sen convene a meeting of the Council of Ministers to discuss canceling the company’s concession.