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Opposition Asks Hun Sen to Protect Prey Lang Forest

A rubber plantation at Rattanakiri province.
A rubber plantation at Rattanakiri province.

The Sam Rainsy Party has sent a request to Prime Minister Hun Sen requesting that he cancel economic land concessions in Prey Lang forest, in the east of the country, where thousands are villagers say their livelihoods are under threat.

Nine SRP parliamentarians singled out more than 6,000 hectares in a concession to a Vietnamese company, CRCK, among others, and suggested the forest be listed as a Unesco World Heritage site.

Hun Sen approved a 70-year lease to CRCK in September 2009, clearing the way for a contract between the company and Ministry of Agriculture for the clearance of forest for a rubber plantation.

In their letter, SRP lawmakers said more than 29,000 people from four different provinces had signed a petition for intervention in the concessions.

Kampong Thom Governor Chhun Chhorn defended the CRCK rubber plantation, saying it would bring more than 2,000 jobs to the area. He accused the Sam Rainsy Party was using the concession as a “political issue.”

However, Men Sothavrin, an SRP lawmaker for the province, said the company was not complying with government development plans and was not likely to bring as much economic development as hoped.

Chhit Vuthy, director of the Natural Resources Protection Group, said Prey Lang forest in Preah Vihear province had been cleared of 30 percent of its tree cover.

“The company clears the forest before the rubber plantation so that’s why the company has a lot of income before they help people,” he said.