ADHOC Condemns Illegal Logging of Indigenous Community land in Ratanakiri Province
Phnom Penh, December 19 2012 - The Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC) wishes to strongly condemn the deforestation and illegal logging of timber by two Vietnamese Companies, Dai Dongguan and Seventy Two, that have received Economic Land Concessions (ELCs) in Porknhai commune, O’yadaw district, Ratanakiri province. ADHOC is also concerned at the intimidation of the Lom village indigenous community, which has been threatened that if they do not change from collective land ownership to individual land ownership, they would have to pay approximately $700-$800 to the local authorities as a ‘fine.’ The rights of Cambodia’s indigenous communities must be respected and its forest preserved, and ADHOC calls on the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) to intervene and solve this land conflict and the many others affecting Cambodia’s indigenous communities.
Mr Romas Svat, the representative of the Jarai indigenous community at Porknhai, has informed ADHOC the two companies, Dai Dongguan and Seventy Two, arrived in the area in 2012 and started to clear the protected forest, which belonged to the community and was registered collectively. A 100 x 3000 meter area has been cleared in some places, while a larger 200 x 3000 meter area has been cleared in others. These are Prey Kaman area, Prey Plouvorng area Ou Kek area, O Liev, all bordering Vietnam.
In April 2012, the commune chief, together with representatives from the Dai Dongguan company, surveyed the land using GPS and acknowledged that the land clearance would affect the community in the area, and ceased bulldozing activities. However, as of December 2012 the company has been clearing the land and exporting timber logged in the area to Vietnam through the Phom Krahorm border checkpoint at night.
Since July 2012, the Seventy Two company has been clearing land and conducting illegal logging activities, exporting timber to Vietnam through the Phom Thmorda border checkpoint.
The community in Lom village has reacted quickly and forcefully against the clearing of their land and the logging activities. However, good timber from this region continues to be exported to Vietnam. In the afternoon of the 10 December 2012, the community members that had been charged with patrolling the forest in Porknhai commune, together with ADHOC staff, went to investigate the land clearing activities conducted by the Seventy Two company. They encountered a large collection of valuable timbers on a three hectare plot of land. Furthermore, rubber plantations are being established on cleared land.
The community representative, Mr Romas Svat, has accused the local authority of intimidating them. The community has allegedly been told that they would be charged $700-800 per hectare to obtain titles for their land if they did not change land title registration from collective to individual ownership. Further, the families in the community were told by local authorities that their land would be worthless as they could not sell it to anybody, nor use it to obtain bank loans. This led to 95 families in Lom village to accept individual land ownership registration. However, 72 other families rejected individual land ownership in favor of collective ownership.
ADHOC wishes to stress that the clearing of forested land and logging activities by the two companies is illegal, according Article 97 of the Forestry Law, and Article 265 of the Land Law. ADHOC request that the RGC takes urgent legal action to protect the land rights of the indigenous community and preserve Cambodia’s endangered forest land, which has been threatened by the anarchic granting of land concessions throughout the country.
ADHOC would like to strongly emphasize its support of indigenous communities throughout Cambodia, who have shown a willingness to organize themselves and obtain collective land ownership registration to maintain their identity, their cultures, their economic stability and the traditional way of living. ADHOC condemns the intimidations and threats by the companies and the local authorities on indigenous groups and requests that the RGC to speed up the process of collective land ownership registration, considering both the size of land and its quality.
For more information, please contact:
Mr. Pen Bonnar, ADHOC Senior Investigator on Land Rights and Natural Resources: 012 964056; email@example.com
Mr. Neil Loughlin, Technical Assistant: 092648318; firstname.lastname@example.org