Villagers Plan to Take Bulldozer Battle to Court

As ethnic Kuoy villagers in Preah Vihear province prepare to take their land dispute with a Chinese company to court, the firm has continued clearing farmland the minority group claim as their own to make way for a sugarcane plantation, villagers and officials said Friday.

According to the villagers—who on Monday confiscated two bulldozers belonging to the Lan Feng company and detained the drivers until authorities released them the following evening—the firm continues to clear forested areas about 2 km away from the site of the earlier confrontation. 

Nuon Mon, a representative of the 400-strong group, said villagers will file a complaint on Monday to the provincial court over the actions of Lan Feng, which was granted a roughly 9,000-hectare economic land concession in Tbeng Meanchey district in 2011.

“We will file a complaint with the provincial court about the land which the company has cleared and [ask the court] to take action to confiscate bulldozers…because if they give the bulldozers back to the company, they will clear our farmland again,” she said.

“The Chinese company is continuing to clear land about 2 km from the old site where we confiscated the bulldozers,” Ms. Mon said, adding that the Kuoy have also farmed the land that is currently being cleared for generations.

Another villager, Bun Sokhun, 35, said one bulldozer retreated Friday morning when some 20 villagers went to prevent its work.

“The company is continuing to clear land day and night,” Mr. Sokhun said.

Lut Sang, a land program officer for the NGO Ponlok Khmer, said his organization is helping the villagers to file their complaint with the court.

“We have seen that the authorities are biased toward the Chinese company and have failed to find a resolution for the villagers,” he said.

Brameru commune chief Nem Thaing said the bulldozers were currently being kept at the commune office but he was not aware that the company was continuing to clear parts of the disputed land.

“It is above the competence of commune authorities, because the [national] government has granted a land concession to company,” Mr. Thaing said of the dispute.

“But the concession is inside the villagers’ land, which they have farmed, and the company doesn’t cooperate with the commune level.”

Representatives for Lan Feng could not be reached.

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