Representatives of more than 300 Tampuan hill-tribe families from two villages in Ratanakkiri’s Bokeo district have submitted complaints to human rights group Adhoc over a gem-mining operation they claim has encroached on their ancestral lands and contaminated local water sources.
The minority villagers from Ti Chak commune said government officials never consulted with them before granting the Rattanak Chhorpoan Co. permission to mine their land but instead threatened them to prevent them from holding protests against the plan.
“They are mining on three hectares of land and will encroach on more of our land soon,” villager Ti Nang said. “We want the authorities to stop the activity or our community will be affected.”
He said some villagers have already become ill after drinking water he believed was contaminated by the mining.
“People have diarrhea, headaches and skin problems because the water we drink and bathe in is dirty.”
Fellow villager Khlong Seuy, 56, appealed to the company to stop its operations. “We are sick of the mining here,” he said.
Muong Poy, Ratanakkiri’s deputy governor, said on Tuesday that he was not aware of the alleged contamination by the mining company but said he will investigate.
Nap Bunheng, Ratanakkiri’s cabinet chief, acknowledged Rattanak Chhorpoan was granted a government permit to conduct mining exploration in the area but said he was not aware of any actual mining being conducted.
Environment Minister Mok Mareth last week ordered the company to conduct an environmental impact assessment before conducting any mining, he added.
An Adhoc representative in Ratanakkiri declined to comment, saying the office received the complaint on Tuesday and would be investigating.