R’kiri Villagers Say Officials Sold State Land for Logging

Villagers representing over 100 families in Ratanakkiri province’s Kon Mom district are accusing local commune council members and a village chief of selling state land to a businessman who has logged the area for luxury timber, local rights group Adhoc said Monday.

Representatives of families in Lbang village, Lbang Muoy commune, lodged a complaint with Ad­hoc on Friday accusing Labang Muoy commune chief Vil Thy, dep­u­ty commune chief Pev Huy and Lbang village chief Ta Korn of selling 15 hectares of forested mountainside, said Adhoc’s provincial coordinator Pen Bonnar.

The land, which is shared by Lbang and Ta Ong communes, was allegedly sold to Kong Sambath, a villager from Banlung district, Pen Bonnar said.

The villagers also said that logging has been going on inside the land since January but that commune officials have taken no action de­spite villagers’ complaints, he said.

“I have asked Ratanakkiri Pro­vin­cial Governor Moung Poy to intervene to stop the clearing and logging at this place,” Pen Bonnar said.

“This is state property. Villagers forbade them to clear the trees and log but Kong Sambath did not stop and claims he bought this from a commune chief,” he added.

Kong Sambath said by telephone Mon­day that he paid $1,000 to Vil Thy and Ta Korn for the land in 1994.

“Since I was informed in recent months by commune officials that this land is prohibited I have not cleared any trees,” he said.  “Com­mune and village chiefs sold it to me. I will not object if the government takes it back, but they have to compensate me.”

Moung Poy could not be contacted, but Ta Ong commune chief Vann Pann said the governor had or­­dered commune, district and for­estry officials to investigate because the matter concerns state forest.

The governor only recently learn­ed of the logging, Vann Pann said.

“It has caused a great deal of forest destruction. They’ve logged luxury trees and transported them to market,” he said. “We are investigating at the scene to estimate the loss.”

Vil Thy, Pev Huy and Ta Korn could not be contacted.

 

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