By Phak Seangly
The Phnom Penh Post
In what’s believed to be an unprecedented move, the Ratanakkiri Provincial Court has ordered two companies holding economic land concessions to face court questioning on accusations of illegal logging and land clearing.
Deputy prosecutor Ros Saram said he summonsed Vietnamese-owned Company 72 last week and will summons rubber plantation company Chea Chanrith today because of complaints made by the ethnic Jarai community in O’Yadav district.
Right groups Adhoc said more than 100 families had asked provincial authorities and forestry administration officials to intervene after Chea Chanrith workers bulldozed 30 hectares of recognised community forest late last year.
The villagers are demanding the company return and replant the forest and complete a land boundary study of the area.
Adhoc senior investigator Pen Bonnar said the move shows that communities fighting land disputes are becoming better organised and have been able to get the issue some leverage in local media.
“We hope this sets a precedent for other companies in the region. It’s a good example that if they do wrong, they could go to court too,” he said.
“It’s a better result than in the past. Before, if the villagers complained, the court didn’t care; but if the company complained, the villagers got arrested.”
Company 72 is due to face court on Thursday, with a date still to be set for Chea Chanrith.
Chan Mab, a translator for Chea Chanrith, said he was unaware of any complaints from villagers and was unsure what the company’s intentions were, as the director had been on holiday for Vietnamese New Year.
Adhoc said the only comparable case in the province is that of a Vietnamese gold-mining company that went to court over a land dispute in 2011, but it didn’t hold an ELC in the region.