Rubber Firm to Stop Marking Disputed Land

A Vietnamese rubber plantation in Ratanakkiri province repeatedly accused of encroaching on the land of local residents agreed to stop demarcating more land Monday after being confronted by a group of villagers who accused the firm of breaching a deal the two sides reached earlier this year.

According to local officials and NGOs, Hoang Anh Lumphat recently agreed to split a disputed 1,400 hectares inside the Lumphat Wildlife Sanctuary, keeping half and letting local villagers use the rest.

However, Keo Souleung, a local villager, said he and 14 others confronted a group of about 10 plantation employees he said were in the process of using wooden stakes to demarcate another 30 hectares on the land the company agreed to let the villagers keep.

“We gathered some villagers to stop the workers from placing the boundary posts,” he said. “We reported to the commune chief about the company violating the villagers’ [land], but I have not received an answer.”

Chey Uddom commune chief Kim Phat said he sent the chief of Sre Chhouk village, Mey Chay, to investigate but had not yet heard back.

Mr. Chay said he joined the villagers when they went to confront the plantation employees and that the company agreed to stop demarcating the area after a company manager, who spoke only Vietnamese, arrived to negotiate with them through a translator.

“The manager told us that he had not given any orders to put boundary posts there and that the workers were doing it on their own,” he said.

Lumphat district governor Kong Srun said he would be sure to enforce the arrangement.

“It will not be difficult [to solve] if the company violates the villagers’ [land],” he said. “We will go to look at the area in the next few days and give the land back to the villagers because we already have an arrangement with the company.”

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