Three rocks from Mondolkiri province’s Nam Lyr mountain, which is considered sacred by ethnic minorities, vanished last month, and local Phnong are accusing Moeung Sok Granite Product Enterprise, which has a license to explore for granite in the area.
Phnong representative Chhot Sovann said Thursday that on June 14, a truck went to the remote Pich Chreda district mountain and carried off three small boulders.
“We suspect the company took them…. There is a traditional ban on taking the rocks,” she said.
Moeung Sok supervisor Sy Mara said the company did not take the rocks. She said they have been too busy working in other provinces to bother with the chunks of granite that have lain at the base of Nam Lyr since the company began exploratory blasting at the mountain in May.
Sy Mara also said the sacred mountain is theirs for the taking. “The company is the owner of the mountain,” she added.
The Phnong revere the great granite hillocks of Nam Lyr as the birthplace of their ancestors and a site of pilgrimage and prayer. After the company started blasting, enraged Phnong struck back, capturing two drilling machines and threatening to take up arms if the desecration continued.
In late May, Moeung Sok gave villagers $1,000, a pig and a buffalo, which villagers sacrificed last month to appease the ancestral spirits they believe reside in the mountain.
“We are sad that we lost the three big rocks,” Chhot Sovann said. “The rock is thousands of years old. Villagers are not to take any single thing from the mountain.”
She said villagers still have the company’s drilling machines and have vowed to prevent Moeung Sok from coming back.
For now, the rains have brought peace to Nam Lyr. But Sy Mara said that once the rains stop, her company plans to resume its work. If villagers continue their protests, she said, it will be sure evidence that they are trying to form an autonomous zone. The villagers, she added, “do not have more power than [Prime Minister] Hun Sen.”