Representatives of more than 300 ethnic minority villagers in Ratanakkiri province’s Lumphat district have filed a complaint with local rights group Adhoc accusing their district governor of selling 250 hectares of their communal forest to a private businessman.
The six Norng Hay village representatives who filed the complaint accuse district governor Klot Sun and five soldiers and Seda commune officials of staking out the forest in late September and then selling it, said Adhoc provincial coordinator Pen Bonnar.
After receiving the complaint Wednesday, Adhoc compiled a report on the case and sent it to provincial governor Moung Poy.
“I sent our report to the governor seeking his intervention and to prevent the district governor and his lower officials in the commune from selling community forest to businessmen,” Pen Bonnar said.
“[The land] is full of big luxury trees and it belongs to the community,” he said. “They should take action and punish [the officials] because they are confiscating the community’s land.”
The villagers are uncertain to whom their land has been sold, or for how much, Pen Bonnar added.
Klot Sun said that the land in question is only 150 hectares in size and that it does not belong to Norng Hay village, but to neighboring Lik village.
Although Klot Sun conceded that he has been involved in measuring out the land, he said it was the villagers in Lik who had chosen to sell it.
“I did not sell it to anyone. We just measured it because we want to know how many hectares it is,” he said. “This land was sold by villagers to the company.”
Klot Sun said the company, which he declined to name, will cut down the trees and plant rubber.
Provincial Governor Moung Poy said Sunday that he is aware of the case, but does not have the full details. He added that it is possible that villagers have sold their land and since changed their minds.
“People themselves [previously] have sold land to other people. I have never seen any provincial officials selling state land,” Moung Poy said.