Hilltribe Vows To Block Roads Until Planting Ends

Phnong hilltribe villagers have pledged to continue erecting road blockades in Mondolkiri prov­ince’s Sen Monorom district to stop a Chinese pulpwood company from plant­ing pine trees on their ancestral lands, a human rights monitor said Thursday.

Chan Soveth, an investigator for local rights group Adhoc, said Thurs­day that Phnong minority villagers in Sen Monorom commune met Thursday morning and ag­reed to block roads in their area be­cause a government order to stop Wuz­hishan’s LS Group’s operations has not been enforced.

“The villagers’ patience is almost finished because no solution has been achieved,” Chan Soveth said.

Human rights workers are worried that violence will erupt if a peaceful solution is not found soon, he said.

Provincial Governor Thou Son and O’Reang district Governor Ngam Pheng, however, flatly de­nied that Wuzhishan has ignored a government order to cease planting pine trees in disputed areas.

Governor Thou Son said that he did not know of the threatened road blockades in Sen Monorom and warned that such activities are il­legal.

“I don’t understand why they want to block the roads,” he ad­ded.

On Monday, more than 800 Wuzhishan farmworkers armed with farm implements broke through a weeklong blockade in O’Reang district that Phnong mi­nority villagers had hoped would pre­vent the company’s work on their land in Dak Dam commune.

Chan Soveth said that the Dak Dam commune villagers haven’t put the blockades back into operation.

Thou Son said he traveled on Tuesday to Dak Dam to try to persuade 150 villagers to cease their protests and wait for a government committee to look into their land claims.

The villagers have agreed to wait for the committee, he said.

Prak Sokhonn, secretary of state at the Council of Ministers, said Thursday that Prime Minister Hun Sen has ordered that the villagers’ spirit forest and farmlands be ex­cluded from Wuzhishan’s 199,999-hectare concession.

(Additional reporting by Kay Kimsong)

 

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