Questioning Cancelled in Villagers’ Claim that Company Cleared State Forest

Ratanakkiri Provincial Court yesterday suspended a hearing over a complaint in which villagers from the province’s Lumphat district accuse rubber-plantation developer DM Group of clearing state-owned protected forest land, the villagers and a court official said yesterday.

“A court official and an attorney of law told me that the court will summon me again,” Sven Vev, one of the two plaintiffs, said yesterday. “Today the planned questions were canceled because I didn’t bring the court’s summons,” he said.

Yesterday’s hearing was over a complaint filed in 2008 by 50 local families who accuse the DM Group of illegally clearing 200 hectares of state forest in Batang commune.

The DM Group has also filed counter complaints against the villagers. Both Mr Vev and Yang Thang, the other man who appeared at the court, are out on bail after being charged with alleged trespassing and destroying more than 100 rubber trees on the firm’s land, which was granted to it as a government-bestowed agricultural concession.

“I hope the next time the court will decide not to suspend the questioning,” Mr Vev said. “I want to see the court’s procedure regarding the complaint. Especially, I will wait until the last minute to see what the court is going to do with a firm that has cleared state forest.”

Mr Vanda, the court prosecutor, could not be reached for comment yesterday, but court clerk Cham Nimol said she had seen Mr Vev and Mr Thang at the courthouse.

“I only know that the questioning has been suspended,” Ms Nimol said. “I don’t know the cause of the delay because the complaint is held by the prosecutor.”

Say Chamroeun, a senior representative of the DM Group, denied his firm cleared government forest.

“We are the land owners,” he said. “We have sufficient documents to prove our legal ownership of the land we purchased.”



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