The Ministry of Agriculture will ask Prime Minister Hun Sen to cancel a 4,900-hectare economic land concession belonging to a Vietnamese rubber company in Ratanakkiri province on the grounds that the firm has been illegally logging on a large scale, officials said yesterday.
Agriculture Minister Chan Sarun said that a committee sent by the ministry to investigate the Day Dong Yoeun company found evidence of extensive illegal logging inside the firm’s 4,889-hectare land concession in O’Yadaw district.
“We confiscated many logs inside this land concession and we are continuing to investigate,” Mr. Sarun said. “We cannot forgive this company, because by illegally logging it has committed a serious crime and violated its contract with the government.”
Mr. Sarun said he would send a report of the findings to the Council of Ministers soon, requesting that the prime minister cancel the company’s concession. “I will request that the government seize this land for state property, because the company has been illegally logging,” he said.
According to the ministry, in no case are concessionaires permitted to cut down trees inside a recognized forest, even if it overlaps with their land concession.
Asked whether the government would revoke Day Dong Yoeun’s concession if asked, Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said it likely would.
“I think so, because the Ministry of Agriculture has expertise on that one,” he said.
“The prime minister will decide on that, based on the expertise of the Ministry of Agriculture,” he added.
Last month, forestry officials found 1,091 cut logs on Day Dong Yoeun’s land. The discovery followed mounting calls by local officials and rights workers for government intervention to halt the deforestation of land belonging to an ethnic Jarai community in Paknhai commune’s Lom village.
On January 4, the company used bulldozers to clear a 150-meter-by-100-meter swath of land the Jarai families use to bury their dead, destroying 150 graves in the process.
According to rights group Adhoc, which has also called on the government to cancel Day Dong Yoeun’s concession, the company has been illegally logging since July, and exporting the wood to Vietnam through the Phoum Thmorda border checkpoint.
Agriculture Ministry spokesman Thun Sarath said the rubber company had been ordered to temporarily stop all activity until a decision on its concession had been reached.
Day Dong Yoeun could not be reached for comment.