CAMBODIA: Kratie villagers file complaint against rubber company

Representatives of 41 families in Kratie province yesterday (9 Nov. 2010)filed a complaint to the provincial court accusing a rubber company of attempting to forcibly evict them from around 30 hectares of land in Snuol district's Samraong village.

Mon Run, 45, said yesterday that the villagers had a land title and had been legally living on the disputed land since 1979. He said workers had already destroyed six houses in the village, although he did not know what kind of claim to the land the firm - which he identified as the Sovann Vuthy Company - was supposed to have.

"It is very cruel that they came to tear down villagers' homes and forcefully evict villagers to a new place as if our life was not equal to one of a rubber tree,” he said.

Ponn Thai, 32, said the company had not given residents any notice before destroying their homes. She said she had returned from work on Wednesday last week to find that a demolition team working on behalf of the company had torn down her house.

"I nearly fainted when I saw my home was damaged and on the ground,” she said. "I was loaned [money] from my neighbour for many years for the construction of this home.”

She said company representatives had shot at residents who tried to protect their homes on "four or five” occasions, but that no one had been injured.

Sovann Vuthy Company representatives could not be reach for comment yesterday but district governor Ear Saphum said the company was in 2009 granted a 6,000 hectare land concession to be used as a rubber plantation.

He said that the land the 41 families were living on was part of that concession, but noted that the company would compensate villagers for any farm or residential land they were evicted from.

"The company has a policy to provide them with new land because they have 2,000 hectares [to use as] compensation, so they will not lose their land,” he said.

He said that, to date, the company had only destroyed one house in the village.(Syed Rashid Ali, Karachi, Pakistan)