Villagers Say Officials Gave Land to the Chinese

Phnong ethnic minority villa­gers in Mondolkiri province ac­cused provincial officials on Tues­day of ignoring their de­mands and handing a Chinese com­pany vast amounts of land around their villages.

A group of provincial representatives lead by Sok Ron, Mon­dol­kiri’s se­cond deputy governor, be­gan erect­ing posts 500 meters from Pou Siam village in O’Reang district’s Sen Monorom commune on Monday and Tuesday, villagers said.

The officials also reportedly met with villagers and told them only that amount of land could be set aside for the village as Wuzhishan LS Group needed the remainder to plant pine trees.

“Those officials did not talk to us about our demands but instead have tried to force and intimidate us into accepting only 500 meters of land around our village,” community leader Hor Phlil said Tues­day.

Wuzhishan officials accompanied the provincial officials, Hor Phlil added.

Phnong villagers in Sen Mon­o­rom commune and Sen Mon­o­rom district’s Dak Dam commune have been embroiled in a land dispute with Wuzhishan since last year, cul­minating in massive protests and a promise from the government in July to resolve the issue.

The villagers in Sen Monorom commune have asked for possession of all land in a 10-km radius around their villages while Dak Dam commune residents have asked for a 3-km zone.

Em Veasna, an investigator for NGO Vigilance, said if provincial au­thorities refuse to listen to the vil­­lagers’ demands, it could incite the hill tribesmen to protest again.

“I am really worried that if the dis­pute takes too long to find a resolution, the villagers might hold other serious protests in order to get their demands,” Em Veasna said.

Provincial Governor Thou Son confirmed provincial officials had been sent to Pou Siam village but refused to say anything further.

Interior Ministry secretary of state and head of the in­termin­is­terial committee charged with re­solving the dispute, Nuth Sa An, said the government has not yet decided on the villagers’ demands.

“We are working on this matter,” he said.


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