The Prey Lang Community Network yesterday delivered a letter to authorities in Kampong Thom province’s Sandan district calling for the postponement of a Vietnamese concessionaire’s forest clearing and notifying authorities of their intention to deliver a lawsuit to the provincial hall tomorrow, network activists said.
According to the conservationist group, the lawsuit will be delivered by a 300-strong contingent that will march to the Sandan District Hall from the headquarters of CRCK Company, whose clearing, the group maintains, has spilled outside the bounds of its nearly 6,200-hectare rubber plantation concession, affecting forest lands used by the villagers for hunting and foraging and damaging villagers’ crops.
Prey Lang network representative Seth Seng, who delivered yesterday’s letter, said the announcement was meant to give district officials fair warning of the coming crowd and characterised the group’s reasoning for its lawsuit as a mix of conservationism and pragmatism.
“We demand the immediate postponement of the clearing so that we can maintain Prey Lang in the future, or else it will be too late, and we also fall into a hard situation,” he said.
Another network representative, Heoun Sopeap, said the concessionaire had overstepped its bounds.
“Recently, they have cleared about 30 hectares of land, and they also have affected the farmers’ lands,” he said.
“At night, they burned the forest, and you could see the light all the way from Sandan town.”
The clearing, he continued, occurred in Chhuk and Sapor Thom villages in Dang Kambet commune and had left only a small patch of forest, which villagers were not allowed to enter freely.
If villagers were allowed to enter and hunt, Sopeap added, they had to split their catch with the company.
CRCK representatives could not be reached for comment.
Sandan district chief Sim Sovanna said that he had received the announcement and had asked the group to select 10 delegates to speak with officials, adding that “if we find out that the company has broken the law, the company will have to compensate the farmers”.
By May Titthara
The Phnom Penh Post
12 February 2013