Governor, Company Defend Destruction of Snuol District Homes

Kratie province’s Snuol district governor said yesterday that villagers’ complaints about having their properties illegally destroyed by companies developing rubber and cassava plantations were unfounded, as the property in question was part of an economic land concession granted by the government in 2008.

Villagers from the district’s Khyoem commune complained to commune authorities on Tuesday, saying that families’ houses had been destroyed by the Sovan Vuthy Rubber Company.

District governor Iv Saphum said yesterday that more than 80,000 hectares of district land had been granted as economic land concessions to 21 companies in Snuol, including Sovan Vuthy’s 7,251 hectare concession inside the Snuol Wildlife Sanctuary in Khyoem commune.

Mr Saphum said he believed the company was preparing roughly 2,000 hectares of its concession to provide social concessions to more than 800 families affected by the company’s development of the land.

“It is difficult to resolve because there are newcomers inciting local villagers to build cottages inside the concession area belonging to the company,” he said, adding that he knew of 10 new cottages that the company had knocked down since the start of October.

Mom Run, 46, a representative of the affected villagers, said yesterday that the rubber company had knocked down six families’ houses and that district authorities had colluded with the company to allow it to happen.

“We live and stay in those houses, but the company and the authorities were so cruel to knock them down while villagers were farming,” he said, adding that the company had cleared 3.5 square kilometers of forest since September and that villagers were concerned their farmland and houses would be next.

Khyoem commune chief Nuon Sam Ath said he had met with the villagers whose houses had been destroyed, and had referred the land dispute to higher authorities.

Sovan Vuthy foreman Ly Sarith confirmed that the company had destroyed cottages and said a further 40 still remained within the company’s concession area.

“Of course, we just recently knocked down the cottages that were built on the concession area to encroach on our land,” he said, adding that the company was working with the government to relocate the villagers to a 2,251-hectare parcel of land set aside for social land concessions.

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