Kratie Protesters Say Developer Destroyed Graveyards, Farms

Sunday marked the sixth day of villager protests in Kratie province against a rubber plantation that allegedly plowed over their land and destroyed five graveyards, local officials and villagers said.

Approximately 350 villagers from Chang Krang commune in Kratie dis­trict have been protesting since the developer, Harmony Plantation Co Ltd, allegedly destroyed five grave­yards while clearing 200 to 300 square meters of land Nov 25, villager Yuong Sam An, 47, said by telephone Sunday.

He said the villagers became an­gry when the developer destroyed the graveyards, and are now de­mand­ing that the developer also stop clearing contested land.

“We were surprised when we saw the company plow our land,” Yuong Sam An said.

“We will cause violence if the company doesn’t stop or withdraw its equipment,” he added.

Chang Krang commune chief Sok Rorn said the government provided 999 hectares to Harmony Plant­ation in an economic land concession arranged through district and provincial governors. However, he said the governors never discussed the concession with him or studied how it would affect villagers.

“If the company still [proceeds with] the project, the villagers will lose their land,” Sok Rorn said Sunday, adding that about 400 families who own approximately 200 hec­tares of land are going to be affected by the concession.

He said the company withdrew its equipment and ceased clearing land after the villagers began protesting.

“Villagers want to destroy the equipment if the company still [proceeds],” he said.

Provincial Governor Kham Phoeun said the government initially provided more than 900 hectares to the developer, but after studying the impact it could have on villag­ers, the state deducted 300 hec­tares from the concession.

He said officials were sent to negotiate with villagers, but the villagers refused to cooperate.

“They don’t stop to protest, but we will try to negotiate with them,” Kham Phoeun said, adding that he or­dered the company to withdraw its equipment and stop plowing the contested land.

In the meantime, Sok Rorn said he is pre­­paring to take the issue to Prime Minister Hun Sen.

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