Representatives for the ethnic minority communities living in Ratanakkiri’s O’Chum district are seeking aid from a rights group amid Vietnamese rubber concessionaire CRD’s ongoing destruction of their sacred community forest, an NGO said yesterday. According to the local communities, CRD has now bulldozed some 1,000 hectares of forest and adjoining farmland. Despite the arrival of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s youth volunteers to measure the land in July and August, allocating up to three hectares to each minority family, the company has not stopped clearing the surrounding area.

“After the land was measured, the company continued clearing the rest [of the surrounding community forest] of the land that is symbolically important to these ethnic villagers,” Thy explained, highlighting how the loss of so much land was splintering their cultural connection to a landscape they have called home for thousands of years.

In response to the villagers allegations yesterday, La’ak commune chief Yam Pan told the Pnom Penh Postthat local authorities had already cordoned off protected community forest, including venerated burial grounds. According to him, the company has only cleared land granted to it by the government.

The Cambodian government did allot CRD 7,591 hectares of land in three districts in 2011 for rubber development, the firm has since faced multiple accusations of malfeasance.

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