More than 400 Phnong ethnic minority villagers started protesting Monday against a developer they claimed is clearing 10 hectares of their farmland and forest burial grounds in Kratie province’s Sambor district.
Local authorities said Tuesday that Seng Ty Import and Export Company, which is owned by a son-in-law of CPP Interior Ministry Secretary of State Nou Pheng, had been granted a 4,000-hectare economic land concession in the area earlier this year.
The Seng Ty company had been clearing land in the vicinity of Sre Sreng village to make way for a rubber plantation, Kbal Damrei commune chief Uch Reth said. In order to prevent the dispute turning violent, Uch Reth said he had seized two tractors and two bulldozers belonging to the company.
“When I went to the field where they protested, I witnessed people carrying hoes, axes and knives trying to stop the company’s workers,” Uch Reth added. “I reported to [district] authorities to try and resolve the matter.”
Sambor district Governor Tong Hul said he was too busy to speak to a reporter Tuesday.
Neither Nou Pheng, nor his son-in-law could be reached for comment Tuesday.
Protesting village Suon Phal said Tuesday that the company had started clearing the villagers’ land Aug 23, but authorities had ignored all complaints against the company’s actions. Residents have now set up a tent in the area so that they can protect their land 24 hours a day from the firm.
“We don’t want our ancestors’ graves to be cleared,” Suon Phal said. “The company must withdraw their work materials and stop grabbing indigenous people’s land,” he added.
Another protester, who gave her name only as Toeun, denied the report that protesters had carried weapons.
Sre Sreng village chief Ork Kum said his people had been using the land for many years.
“The company started clearing without informing us,” he said.