More than 200 families from an ethnic Kreung community in Ratanakkiri province’s Voeun Sai district allege that a Vietnamese rubber company has illegally grabbed 400 hectares of their communal farmland, rights workers and local villagers said yesterday.
Ka’Nging Chan, a representative of 250 Kreung families, said villagers opposed a rubber plantation concession that overlaps with about 400 hectares of rotational farmland that villagers use for growing rice and cassava.
He said workers from Vietnamese rubber company Hong Anh had demarcated the land concession with spray paint in the middle of last year and had so far cleared about 20 hectares of communal farmland.
“Now the company cleared all this farmland,” Mr Chan said, adding that villagers had already staged a dozen local protests to voice their opposition to the concession’s boundary demarcation.
He said that in April several villagers had tried to stop company workers from bulldozing their cassava fields, but the firm’s security guards had attacked the villagers with machetes.
“Those villagers were about to get chopped,” he said. “It was lucky they could run fast.”
Voeun Sai district governor Chum Ngil rejected the villagers’ complaints, saying the 10,000-hectare economic land concession, granted to Hong Anh in 2008 and covering parts of Pong and Phnom Kuk communes, did not affect the villagers’ lands.
“The company is legal and has been granted the land concession… to develop the district,” he said. “The firm has never grabbed their farmland, because the affected farmland was cut out of the concession area.”
Pen Bonnar, provincial coordinator for the human rights group Adhoc, said villagers were rightfully laying claim to their communal farmlands. Mr Bonnar said he would visit the village soon to investigate the dispute further and help draw up an official complaint.
“Villagers are just demanding their farmland back, [they are] not opposing the concession,” he said, adding that the Kreung community had also complained of threats of violence from company workers.