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Rubber Concessions Worry Villagers in Northeast

The high-tech survey in Cambodia's largest national park has found a diversity of wildlife preserved by decades of isolation, but an absence of tigers and elephants suggests that poaching is taking a toll.

Villagers from four different provinces say they are concerned about two land concessions that could destroy a strip of forest and deprive them of their livelihoods.

The Prey Lang forest spans the provinces of Kampong Thom, Steung Trang, Kratie and Preah Vihear. Two rubber concessions cut into the forest in Preah Vihear and Kampong Thom. But villagers from all four provinces say they need the forest to make a living.

Local authorities barred the villagers from demonstrating over the concessions, totaling nearly 20,000 hectares, in February. But villagers told reporters in Phnom Penh this week the concessions to companies CNCK and PNT will harm the forest.

“Please, government, give the land concessions back to the communities and let the natural forest grow,” a coalition of villagers said in a statement.

Kampong Thom Governor Chhun Choan said he was unaware of land clearances in Prey Lang.

However, Kham Pheoun, governor of Kratie, said villagers in the region could also be prone to “illegal logging.”

Chheng Kim Sun, chief of forestry administration for the Ministry of Agriculture, could not be reached for comment.