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Villagers, coffee firm battle over Mondulkiri land

Ethnic Bunong villagers in Mondulkiri’s Pichreada district stand next to demarcation post yesterday that they claim was recently placed by KPIS Investment company. Photo supplied
Ethnic Bunong villagers in Mondulkiri’s Pichreada district stand next to demarcation post yesterday that they claim was recently placed by KPIS Investment company. Photo supplied

Villagers, coffee firm battle over Mondulkiri land

Tensions flared yesterday between 20 Bunong ethnic minority villagers and a coffee company operating on an economic land concession in Mondulkiri’s Pech Chreada district, prompting local authorities to investigate.

Villagers saw about 10 “K PIS Investment” workers planting coffee on farmland claimed by both the company and Bunong villager Sreum Pyounh in Bosra commune’s Poulo village, according to community representative Kreung Tola.

“We stopped the workers from planting, and an argument happened between the community and company’s administrative staff Mr. Vann Sunheng. We were about to attack each other,” Tola said.

Pyounh, 48, who is part of a group of 29 families locked in the dispute, claimed that he has farmed the land for five years, but the company started planting demarcations on his land.

“My rice has grown for seven days, but the company destroyed it by digging a furrow to plant coffee trees,” he said.

A district official, who wished to be identified only by his first name Chea, said he witnessed the confrontation and intervened to ease tensions.

“We were inspecting the dispute and an argument erupted. I coordinated to end the argument,” he said.

The feud began last year, according to Chea, who said the company was granted 500 hectares, of which it has used some 60 per cent. The company could not be reached for comment.

Tola yesterday said that the villagers plan on petitioning Prime Minister Hun Sen if local authorities do not resolve the dispute.

In a separate case, some 50 Bunong ethnic villagers from Keo Seima district’s Sre Chhouk commune delivered a request that 300 hectares of land be titled as community forest by provincial authorities, according to Sok Ratha, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc.

Authorities have so far ignored requests to measure and title the community forest, Ratha said. Mondulkiri Provincial Governor Svay Sam Eang as well as Provincial Hall administrative director Hak Sophan both said they were too busy to comment on the case yesterday.

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