Minister of Agriculture Chan Sarun on Tuesday ordered the closure of a newly established Vietnamese-owned rubber tree processing factory in Ratanakkiri province, saying workers had been cutting down trees on state-owned land without permission.
In a written order, Chan Sarun demanded that the Hoang Thang Company immediately remove equipment from the site in Banlung district where it has been operating.
The ministry’s rubber plantation department issued a report on May 17 stating that the company, which opened in April, had been cutting down old rubber trees without permission from the ministry. Investigators visiting the plant had found one machine for refining trees, 10 sawmills and 100 rubber trees that had been illegally cut down, the report stated.
The company requested permission to process rubber trees from Ratanakkiri Governor Muong Poy, who agreed on April 20, according to the report, though it added that the Agriculture Ministry’s approval was needed.
Muong Poy said the company had never received his permission. “The Agriculture Ministry closed it. It did not have a license at all,” he said.
Hem Sophal, a member of the Agriculture Ministry’s rubber plantation registration committee, said the factory was built on more than three hectares of rubber plantation in La Bansiek commune.
An unnamed RCAF official representing the company could not be contacted for comment Tuesday. However, the Agriculture Ministry report quoted the military officer as saying in a meeting that the company had received permission from veteran CPP lawmaker Bou Thang, who represents Ratanakkiri.
Contacted by telephone, Bou Thang said he had suggested that the Hoang Thang Company cut down old rubber trees on privately owned land, not on a state-owned plantation. He added that he was opposed to the closure of the company and was working to bring the company into compliance with the law. “I do not agree with this closure,” he said, adding that he now planned to bring the matter to the attention of Prime Minister Hun Sen.