Ratanakiri Community Says Revoked Concession Still Operates

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Ratanakiri provincial hall in July 2017. (Chorn Chanren/VOD)
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Indigenous Jarai and Tampoun communities in Ratanakiri are urging authorities to return nearly 1,000 hectares of land from a rubber plantation that they say continues to operate on a revoked part of a concession.

Chuang Li Investment was granted 1,900 hectares in Andong Meas district as an economic land concession in 2010, but the land was downsized by governmental decree in 2014 by around 500 hectares.

The exact details of the disputed land vary — a former deptuy district governor says only 200 hectares remain with the company, while the province merely says it is “complicated” — but according to the communities, land that should be theirs was never returned.

Sev Vi, a representative for a Jarai community in Malik commune’s Laom village, believed it was 969 hectares that Chuang Li continued to illegally use for rubber, durians and cashews.

“But the province is silent. … They didn’t give us [land titles],” Vi said. The community began protesting the authorities’ inaction in 2018, and continues to appeal their case, he said.

Andong Meas’s former deputy district governor Phat Sambath said Chuang Li now owned only about 200 hectares after a series of downsizing to the economic land concession. He also alleged the community was trying to sell the protected land.

Ratanakiri provincial governor Nhem Sam Oeun said authorities were still investigating the case.

“This case is complicated,” he said. “And we are solving it. We know about it, and we are studying it for them because the case is related to company land, and the company was slow to develop it. We are still investigating to know the exact root cause, whether the company actually took the land or not.”

In 2015, a local Jarai community protested that the company was illegally prospecting for gold and had cleared 150 of 784 hectares earmarked for the community, according to the Phnom Penh Post.

A Commerce Ministry-listed phone number for Chuang Li Investment did not connect.

Correction: This article previously misstated that Phat Sambath is the current district governor of Andong Meas.

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