Villagers To File Complaint Over Burial Land Clearances

Ethnic minority Panong families in Mondolkiri province plan to file a complaint with local authorities Wednesday asking for the protection of their sacred burial grounds, which they say employees of a concession firm are trying to clear, villagers said yesterday.

Seventeen Panong men were patrolling on motorbikes Sunday in O’Reang district’s Dak Dam commune when they confronted 20 employees of the Huor Lien Company who were using a chainsaw and axes to cut down trees in the burial ground forest, according to community representative Til Ti.

“We confiscated a chainsaw and a number of axes, because we are really worried that by cutting down the trees in the burial grounds and spirit forest they will give us villagers bad fortune,” Mr Ti said yesterday.

Representatives of the Huor Lien Company came to see the villagers yesterday to ask for the return of the equipment, a request that was refused, Mr Ti said. They showed the villagers a map of the firm’s concession area, which included at least ten more burial grounds, he added.

“This is why we are planning to write a complaint to authorities at all levels to help protect the spirit trees and burial grounds,” Mr Ti said.

Panong villager Oeuth Bunny, first deputy commune chief, said he supports the complaint.

“Indigenous villagers are different from central Cambodians,” he said, “because we believe all the trees have pure spirits to protect them and to give us resources.”

Contact information was unavailable yesterday for the Huor Lien Company.

Yim Priya, deputy chief of the Forestry Administration for O’Reang district, said he confiscated the chainsaw because “to cut down the big trees in burial grounds is prohibited.”

He also said he plans to investigate the Huor Lien Company’s exact claims, although he has seen the Ministry of Agriculture letter granting them a concession for a pine plantation.

“I briefly met with their representatives who tried to ask us to hand them back the confiscated chainsaw,” he said. “But I don’t know the exact size of their concession yet.”

Representatives with Huor Lien Company could not be reached for comment.



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