Villagers in Mondolkiri province say loggers working for a rubber plantation belonging to a deputy governor’s wife are continuing to illegally fell the resin trees they depend on to make a living.
The ethnic Bunong villagers accuse Villa Development of cutting down their resin trees outside the borders of its plantation in Sen Monorom City’s Sokdum commune. They sent representatives to Phnom Penh in October to file a complaint with Prime Minister Hun Sen’s cabinet, asking that the concession be canceled.
On Sunday, villagers said the plantation was still logging out of bounds.
Bleuk Phirum said she heard the sound of chainsaws coming from the forest on Friday and went to investigate with five other women. In the forest, and beyond the plantation’s boundaries, she said they saw two teams of four loggers at work, and 40 of their resin trees lying on their sides.
“We knew that the eight people were working for the company because they drove their trucks onto the company [land],” she said.
Deputy provincial governor Yim Luch, who in October said his wife owned the property, on Sunday rejected the villagers’ claims.
“I don’t think the company is cutting trees outside of the land concession; the accusation is not true,” he said.
Mr. Luch also said that it was not the company cutting the trees, but two businessmen: Lim Bunna, and another he said he knew only as Oknha Pheakdey.
“You can’t cultivate a rubber plantation unless you cut down the trees [already there], so the authorities let the company collect the timber and pay the tax to the state,” he said. “Oknha Lim Bunna and Oknha Pheakdey got the right to transport the wood for the company. Oknha Bunna and Oknha Pheakdey can transport the wood any time because they pay the tax to the state.”
Sok Rotha, provincial coordinator for Adhoc, said he received a complaint from the villagers on Friday, and would investigate their claims in the coming days.