Ratanakkiri Villagers Fear Losing Land to Resort

Ratanakkiri province villagers are concerned about losing land and access to resources if a so-called “eco-tourism resort” goes ahead in O’Chum and Banlung districts, a representative said Monday.

The area in question is Yol mountain, 2 km east of Yeak Lom Lake, where the private BVB Com-pany has been granted a 218-hec-tare land concession to develop an eco-tourism resort.

Yeak Lom village resident Nhun Nea said by telephone Monday that 50 Tampuon minority families would lose their farmland, and villagers are also concerned about a proposed cable car from Yol mountain to Yeak Lom Lake.

“When the company begins de-velopment it will affect the villagers who live around there,” he said.

Provincial Deputy Governor Sim Sou Yong said Monday that there was a plan to compensate villagers for any losses. He added that he would order the company to continue to allow villagers to cut straw and bamboo, but not wood.

Sim Sou Yong said the company plans to build a cable car, but within the bounds of the 218-hectare project. He added that villagers merely misunderstand the project.

According to Sim Sou Yong, though they will lose their land the villagers will profit from the project as it would offer jobs, attract tour-ists who buy handicrafts, and al-

so protect the forest within the bounds of the resort.

By making way for the private tourist company, the Tampuon villagers would have a chance to share their culture with outsiders, Sim Sou Yong continued.

The Ministry of Agriculture granted the ethnic minority’s land as a business concession at the end of last year, but the BVB Company has not yet started work, Sim Sou Yong said. A letter sent to Sim Sou Yong by the company promised to keep the forest green and to prevent logging in the area.

“The company would also build homes for the villagers” who are evicted, Sim Sou Yong added.

Duong Vibol, director-general of BVB Company, could not be reached for comment Monday.

Pen Bonnar, provincial coordinator for local rights group Adhoc, said that he supported granting land to a firm that might preserve the environment, rather than granting it to one that would destroy it.

“I support providing the land…to make an eco-tourism resort rather than providing it to a rubber plantation that would clear the forest,” he said.



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