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Villagers upset over threat to cut down trees

Khy Sovuthy / Khmer Times Share:
A man collects resin from a tree. Supplied

Kuoy Indigenous people in Stung Treng province’s Siem Bouk district yesterday raised concerns over a man claiming to represent a company and threatening to cut down their resin trees in order to develop the land.

On a 4,776-hectare Economic Land Concession in the district, villagers have been allowed to harvest resin from the trees that are on land belonging to the Korean company Think Biotech.

However, Sem Hun, a community representative, said that a man named Sok Jia has now appeared on the land and claims to represent a new company which has taken over the concession from Think Biotech.

Ms Hun said Mr Jia told villagers that he represents a company contracted by the concession holder Korean company Think Biotech to clear the area for plantation development.

Ms Hun noted that Mr Jia claimed that Think Biotech had sold the land to a new company and told the villagers they must sell the trees to him or he will have to cut them down.

She added that about two years ago, Think Biotech put up markers to claim the land in Siem Bouk commune. She noted that villagers protested and the provincial governor and a company representative promised to retain the trees for the villagers to tap resin.

“So why is the company telling us now that they will cut the tress down?” Ms Hun asked. “If they cut our resin trees down, how will our villagers earn a living?”

Yim Mam, another villager, said yesterday that she will not sell trees to the new company because she depends on the resin to earn a living.

“We request the provincial authorities and the government intervene because our livelihoods depend on those trees,” she said.

Mom Saoroeun, Stung Treng provincial governor, declined to comment.

Men Kong, a Provincial Hall spokesman, said yesterday that he does not have any information on the matter, but confirmed that the company and Provincial Hall agreed not to cut the resin trees down because the villagers in the community earn a living by harvesting resin.

“We will ask provincial officials to research and study this issue,” Mr Kong said.

Chung Hwanki, director of Think Biotech, could not be reached for comment.

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