To uncover more information about a rubber concession in Ratanakkiri province, ethnic Jarai villagers have stopped two tractors in their tracks by confiscating keys to the machinery and refusing to hand them over, officials and villagers said.
Villagers snatched the keys on Friday when more than 200 people stopped land clearing by two tractors owned by the operators of the A Lev rubber concession, said Rocham Vin, the chief of Som Kul village in Bakeo district’s Soeung commune.
“They confiscated the keys from the two tractors in an attempt to stop the land clearing,” he said, adding that the keys would remain with villagers to compel company representatives and provincial leaders to release more information about the concession, such as the legal boundaries.
The plantation has sparked concerns that Jarai rotational farmland will be cleared for rubber, he said.
Sou Ne, the deputy district police chief, said the authorities’ first concern was that villagers would destroy the tractors. Police met with them yesterday to warn them to keep their protests peaceful and will also investigate the details of the plantation, he said.
So far, company representatives have not met with or informed district authorities about the boundaries or details of their project.
“We don’t know yet whether this firm has licenses from the government to develop a rubber plantation here or not because no company owners or representatives came to show us the documents,” he said.
Soy Sona, director of the provincial agricultural department, confirmed that the company had been granted a rubber concession earlier this year in Lumphat district, but said he did not have the size or boundaries available because he was at a meeting. The Jarai villagers may be using an old map and the company may actually be working in Lumphat, not Bakeo district, he said, adding that authorities were working to determine the boundaries.
“Some villager may have assumed the boundary of the two districts based on the boundaries of the previous generation,” he said.
Contact information for the rubber company was unavailable.