Monday, 07 March 2011 15:02 May Titthara
The NGO Forum and the Cambodian Human Rights Actions Committee issued a joint statement on Friday, urging the government to prevent a Vietnamese-owned rubber company from further destroying land in Prey Lang forest.
The two umbrella groups, which represent more than 100 NGOs, were responding to protests waged by Kampong Thom province villagers who say they depend on the 200,000 hectare forest for their livelihoods.
The protestors have demonstrated against provincial authorities and the CRCK Rubber Development Company, which was granted a 6,044 hectare land concession by the government last year.
The statement urged the government and development companies to help preserve the land, which they said was rich in natural resources and wildlife, and valuable to locals.
“Us NGOs and villagers were disappointed when provincial authorities said Prey Lang is a dull forest,” the statement read.
Kampong Thom deputy Governor Uth Sam An said last week that the land being developed by CRCK was not communal land, and therefore villagers had no right to it.
At a press conference last Thursday, village representatives from Kampong Thom accused local authorities of using intimidation to break up protests.
Thousands of families are estimated to depend on the forest, which borders Kampong Thom, Kratie, Preah Vihear and Steung Treng provinces.
Hundreds of demonstrators gathered last month in front of CRCK headquarters in Kampong Thom’s Sandan district to protest the company’s clearing of land they claim as part of a community forest.
Officials later accused villagers of not knowing the proper boundary of the concession.