Hill Tribe: Gem Mining Contaminating Water

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.

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