R’kiri Villagers Say DM Group Has Cleared Their Farmland in

Ethnic minority villagers in Ra­­­tan­akkiri province involved in a long-running land dispute with the rub­ber firm DM Group have ac­cused the company of clearing 20 hectares of farmland, following pre­vious accusations from vil­lag­ers that the company cleared more than 400 hectares of tribal land and state forest.

The company denied the accusation yesterday, saying it was the legal owner of the property.

Tiem Vanna, a villager representing more than 50 Tampuon minority families in Lumphat district’s Ba­tang commune, said DM Group wor­kers on Monday began clearing the 20 hectares in Batang village, which is used for traditional rotational farming.

“We are really sorrowful to see the remaining rotational farmland is be­ing cleared by this rich firm again,” she said.

Villagers filed a lawsuit in 2005 claiming the company had seized 200 hectares of tribal farmland and filed another complaint in 2008 claiming the company grabbed 200 hectares of state forest.

DM Group has claimed it has pur­chased all their land legally and filed a lawsuit in 2008 stating villagers have trespassed on their land.

DM Group representative Say Cham­roeun confirmed that the com­pany began clearing new land re­­cently, but said it had been purchased legally outside of Batang village.

He said the freshly cleared land is part of a 310-hectare tract in Say­us Khang Lech and Sayus Khang Koet villages.

“I am happy that the newspaper contacted us because we are a big firm that legally bought the land for development,” he said, adding rubber trees on the plantation will be ready for harvest in three years.

Pen Bonnar, provincial coordinator for the local rights group Adhoc, said the 20 hectares are entirely with­in Batang village, which has been used by the ethnic villagers since 1979.

Kong Srun, the Lumphat district governor, said that DM Group le­gally purchased more than 300 hec­tares of land from local villagers, and his office will verify it is clearing the proper land.

“I also had asked my official to look into the paperwork to make sure the firm is occupying the exact hectares they bought; especially, to make sure no villager farmland over­laps,” he said.

 

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