Gov’t Halts Tree-Cutting on Phnong Tribal Land

Chinese land and timber giant Wuzhishan LS Group has been or­dered to suspend immediately ac­tivities in areas of its Mondolkiri province concession that encroach on Phnong hill tribe land, provincial authorities said Sunday.

Ngam Pheng, governor of Mon­dol­kiri’s O’Reang district, said Prime Minister Hun Sen issued the suspension order following a Council of Ministers meeting on Fri­day morning.

“The company must suspend its activities immediately on the disputed land,” provincial Governor Thou Son said on Sunday. “And then we are going to set up a pro­vincial com­mittee to work on this mat­ter.”

The order was issued Saturday after Interior Ministry officials met with provincial officials on Friday, Thou Son said, adding that Wuzhi­shan would be fined if it violated the government decision.

On Thursday police used water hoses to break up a demonstration by more than 800 Phnong villagers protesting Wuzhishan’s encroachment on their traditional farming grounds and forests.

Local officials had lodged complaints against the company and im­plored the governor to act.

Em Veasna, an investigator for lo­­cal human rights group Vigi­lance, said Sunday that the Dak Dam and Sen Monorom communes, which had protested against Wuzhishan’s activities, had not heard of the suspension order and claimed the company had not ceased operations.

“Workers are still planting pine trees, and the company trucks still transport workers and rice to various places around the province,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Phann Ana)


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