Hilltribe Clashes With Concession Company

The conflict between the Chi­nese concession company Wuzhi­shan LS Group and the Phnong hilltribe of Mondolkiri province took a new turn on Tuesday when more than 60 ethnic minority members block­ed a road in Dak Dam commune and seized two of the company’s trucks.​​​

The Phnong villagers kept the trucks, carrying some 200 Wuzhi­shan workers, immobilized for about one hour before releasing both the vehicles and the employees on the request of local police of­ficers, officials said.

“They confiscated trucks transporting about 200 Wuzhishan work­ers to prevent them from working in the area where they claim the com­pany has destroyed their farmland and spirit forest,” O’Reang district Governor Ngam Pheng said.

The workers were later taken to the provincial government offices, he said.

Mondolkiri provincial Governor Thou Son said police will take ac­tion if more roads are blockaded in the province.

“It was not the authority of those people to block the road. [Wuzhi­shan] has the right to plant the pine trees,” he said, adding that a small group of conspirators were be­hind what has become rare public pro­tests by the country’s ethnic mi­norities.

Thou Son branded the protestors, “a small group of people who want to grab the government’s land.”

Provincial officials said Sun­day that the Council of Ministers or­dered the company to suspend work on the disputed land. But Wuzhi­shan’s activities have not stop­ped in the province, said Em Veas­na, a local human rights worker.

“The people have lost confidence in the government and local au­thorities, which is why they de­cided to stop the company’s activities themselves,” Em Veasna said, ad­ding that between 60 to 100 villa­gers are monitoring the movements of the company’s trucks.

Chan Soveth, an Adhoc investigator and representative of the Hu­man Rights Action Committee, a co­alition of 18 NGOs, said the Council of Ministers’ letter dated June 17 orders Wuzhishan to suspend all work.

Thou Son, however, said Wuzhi­shan has the right to continue plant-ing pine trees in its concession while the extent of the hilltribe land is being determined.


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