B’bang Villagers File Complaint Against Rubber Concession

Nearly 300 families in Battambang province’s Samlot district, including 80 Por indigenous minority families, sent a complaint to provincial authorities last week asking officials to redraw a rubber plantation concession area they claim encroaches on their farmland, a rights worker and officials said yesterday.

Yin Mengly, Battambang provincial coordinator for human rights group Adhoc, said 296 families in eight villages in Samlot district filed a complaint with provincial officials on Thursday.

“Now there are 296 families whose land is affected by Roth Sambath Company,” Mr Mengly said. “The villagers want their land cut out of the [rubber] concession.” Villagers demanded they should be allowed to keep 880 hectares of land that falls under the concession, he said.

Mr Mengly said about 80 families of a Por indigenous minority village of Phnom Rey were also affected by the 5,200-hectare rubber-growing concession and they had co-signed the complaint.

He explained the Por indigenous people practice rotational farming in the area, growing corn and some rubber trees on about 590 hectares of land in Ta Tork commune.

On Dec 7, about 200 villagers converged at the Ta Tork commune office, demanding that Roth Sambath Company stopped seizing their farmlands. The villagers went to the site of the firm’s concession, where they confronted and stopped bulldozers that were clearing their land. The company has since stopped work in the area.

Ta Tork commune chief Kim Ly said yesterday that she sent the villagers’ request to provincial officials in charge of land issues and claimed that villagers demanded only 550 hectares in the concession as their farmland, not 880 hectares.

“Now we are waiting for the solution,” she said, adding that villagers had lowered their demands after initially asking for 1,200 hectares.

Villager Ham Chan, 50, a former Khmer Rouge soldier, said he was worried about the land dispute. “I am very afraid of losing my farmland,” Mr Chan said.

Battambang provincial governor Prach Chan said in reaction to the villagers’ concerns that he had ordered officials to investigate how the concession affected them.

“Now I asked district officials to study the land clearly,” Mr Chan said, adding that after this study he would decide whether or not redraw the concession area.


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