VN Firm Eyes Ratanakkiri Land Concession

Vietnamese firm Gia Lai Co Ltd is hoping to establish a land concession of more than 9,000 hec­tares along the border with Viet­nam in Ratanakkiri province’s O’Yadaw district, officials said Tues­day.

In cooperation with the Cam­bo­di­an military, the firm wants to cut back the forest along the border and establish a rubber plantation, O’Yadaw district Governor Hen Bunthan said.

“No activity has started yet. The plan is scheduled for along the bor­der in cooperation with Mi­li­ta­ry Region One,” he said.

Government officials and company representatives made a survey of the proposed concession in February.

Nguyen Sinh, Gia Lai Co Ltd di­rec­tor, could not be reached by e-mail on Tuesday.

It was not immediately clear on Tues­day whether the firm is private or state owned, though it shares the name of a Vietnamese province in the Central Highlands that has been the site of unrest among the region’s ethnic minority Montagnards, thousands of whom have fled to Cambodia claiming persecution in Vietnam.

Pen Bonnar, provincial coordinator of rights group Adhoc, said that letting a Vietnamese firm clear forests may make it harder for asylum-seekers to seek sanctuary in Ra­ta­nak­­kiri province.

“When a company clears the forest, it’s easier for the authorities to find the Montag­nards,” he said.

Puoy Loy, Som Thom commune chief in O’Yadaw, said Tues­day that he has been invited along with commune chiefs from Ya­tung, Pak Nhai and Se San communes to meet with Vietnamese au­thorities along the border today.

He said he believed the meeting would concern land concessions.

Puoy Loy said that Gia Lai Co Ltd recently gave Pak Nhai commune officials a car as a gift for communal use.

Commenting on the proposed land concession, opposition lawmaker Son Chhay accused Viet­nam of encroaching on Cam­bo­di­an territory. “This is land grabbing by Vietnam,” Son Chhay said. “They start to remove the frontier and go deeper into the country.”

Nguyen Thanh Duc, Viet­nam­ese Embassy spokesman, said he had no immediate information on Gia Lai Co Ltd, but added that the embassy will look into the case.

“Between Gia Lai and Ratanak­ki­ri there will be a lot of things happening,” Nguyen Thanh Duc said. Asked to elaborate, he said he would have to consult with Hanoi, adding that his information has been coming from Ratanakkiri rather than Vietnam. “We have to ask Gia Lai province also,” he said.

Vietnamese farmers living along the border sometimes come to work in Cambodia, and vice versa, he said.

“Cambodian firms sometimes hire Vietnamese people to do farming…. It’s a civil dispute, not a dispute between our two countries,” Nguyen Thanh Duc said.


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