R’kiri Villagers Ask for Help Protecting their Land

More than 160 ethnic Tampuon minority families sent a petitions to Ratanakkiri provincial authorities this week, calling for help in holding off the mining firm and rubber plantations they say are encroaching on their farmland.

Pralong Pheuy, a representative of the 163 families from Kam village in O’Chum district’s La’ak commune, said the community petitioned the provincial departments of agriculture, environment, and industry, mines and energy, as well as the provincial government.

Filed on Tuesday, the documents called on authorities to prevent the Vietnamese mining firm Hong Anh from conducting exploratory drilling on about 1,000 hectares of the community’s farmland, he said.

The petition also called for the local government to take action over two unidentified, but reportedly Vietnamese firms that run rubber plantations in the area, Mr Pheuy said. The firms told villagers they had been granted economic land concessions covering 20,000 hectares of land, he claimed

“Particularly we call for all those involved parties to stop the three firms from clearing the only remaining deep forest in our village,” he said.

“We are not opposing the government’s development and investment project, we just need the government to investigate in the field how indigenous villagers are suffering,” he added.

Contact information for the three companies was unavailable yesterday.

Mr Pheuy said the Hong Anh company had already drilled dozens of meter-deep holes on the community’s land as part of a study into the feasibility of extracting iron ore.

“The company doing iron-ore exploration has ignored the problem of drilling dozens of holes on our land, destroying our crops,” said Long Ka, one of the affected villagers.

“We are going to schedule a meeting to bring company officers to meet with affected villagers next week to resolve the matter,” said Hem Vanthan, director of the provincial department of industry, mines and energy.

The Industry Ministry licensed Hong Anh to explore for iron ore on 100 square km in O’Chum district back in 2009, Mr Vanthan said.

He said that the company was responsible for compromising with affected families and compensating them for any damage.


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