Ethnic Jarai families living in Ratanakkiri province’s Borkeo district have accused a Vietnamese rubber company of digging a channel to drain a lake the indigenous villagers use for fishing and irrigation, a local official and rights worker said on Sunday.
Rochom Vin, Yeak Som village chief, said that since June, the Kao Su Ea Lev BM Yoy Stock company has been digging a conduit to connect Lumpok lake—which is located outside the company’s economic land concession—to the nearby O’Kantey stream, with the intention of draining and filling in the lake to grow rubber on the land.
Mr. Vin said that he and three villagers had inspected the new channel on Sunday and would attempt to stop the ongoing excavation today.
“We went to look at the digging activity there, and we saw that the company has dug to within 40 meters of the lake,” he said, adding that more than 120 Jarai families have fished in the 50-meter-by-250-meter lake for generations, and use the water to irrigate their crops.
“I will hold a meeting with the villagers tonight about going there to stop the activity of the company because this is a natural lake, which we need to conserve for the people,” Mr. Vin said.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Kao Su Ea Lev BM Yoy Stock was granted a 8,400-hectare land concession in Lumphat district’s Seda commune in May 2011. Officials at Kao Su Ea Lev BM Yoy Stock could not be reached.
Chhay Thy, provincial investigator for rights group Adhoc, said that the company has not only breached the terms of its contract with the government, but also violated the country’s Forestry Law, which prohibits clearing of land within 150 meters of lakes and streams.
“I received a telephone call this morning from the village chief, who asked me to intervene to stop the activity of the company,” Mr. Thy said, adding that Adhoc would ask the company to stop further construction of the canal.
“We are strongly opposed to the company’s attempt to seize state property,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Ben Woods)