Firm accused of grabbing indigenous community’s land in Stung Treng

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More than 30 families from the Kreung indigenous community in Talat commune’s Rumpat and Talat villages in Stung Treng province’s Sesan district claimed that a private company had cleared their plantations. Photo supplied

More than 30 families from the Kreung indigenous community in Talat commune’s Rumpat and Talat villages in Stung Treng province’s Sesan district claimed that a private company had cleared their plantations.

SK Plantation (Cambodia) Pte Ltd – which has received investment rights from the government through the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to develop agro-industrial crops – has also allegedly threatened to evict the villagers from the land they claimed to have live on for more than 20 years.

Sin Dao, 42, a representative of the Kreung in Rumpat village, told The Post on May 3 that the company now used security forces to stop locals using the land.

"They have used bulldozers to clear more than 30ha of our holy forest and crops. They have demolished three of our villagers' houses and wouldn’t allow us to build new houses and grow crops," he said.

Klim Yoeung, 75, an elder and the chief of Rumpat village, said: “In the past, both parties [SK and relevant authorities] had met and agreed to allocate our community’s collective land for the agro-industrial development project of this company.”

But the company suddenly sent a representative named Sambath to stop villagers building and planting, claiming the land as its own.

Yoeung called on commune, district, and provincial authorities as well as relevant units to intervene to find a solution to this case.

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The Post tried to contact SK Plantation several times, and a man who identified himself as Sambath, the company's regional manager, said briefly that the firm was developing agro-industrial crops as planned.

"I can only say this, if you want to know more, please ask the ministry or the agriculture department – a professional body in charge of monitoring the development," he said.

Chea Konara, Kon Mom district Forestry Administration director in Ratanakkiri province, told The Post that the government had granted more than 6,500ha of land concessions to SK Plantation in two districts – Kon Mom and Sesan in Ratanakkiri and Stung Treng provinces respectively – to grow agro-industrial crops.

"Before registering for transfer of ownership to the company, a group of experts headed by the agriculture ministry decided to clear the collective land of all indigenous people.

"However, land disputes continue to occur everywhere. In some places, the villagers are abusive while others are abused by private companies,” he added.

Konara suggested that the villagers submit a request for intervention to local authorities or state land management committee at the district and provincial levels and other relevant institutions.