Rubber Farmers Accuse Big Firm of Encroaching on Their Land

Roughly 100 rubber farmers in Ratanakkiri province’s O’Chum district blocked National Road 78A on Wednesday, demanding that authorities take action against a pair of laborers they accuse of stealing resin from their land. The laborers—Math Las, 40, and his wife, Nos Yas, 38—who are reportedly employed by Chinese-owned Swiss Rubber Limited, were apprehended by the farmers Wednesday for allegedly taking resin from trees outside the Chinese company’s concession in Ekpheap commune. The protesters then used three pickup trucks and a human-chain to block the road after police refused to acknowledge their complaint, according to protester Lon Putheara. … On Friday, in Ekpheap commune, the farmers confiscated an excavator belonging to Swiss Rubber and turned it in to provincial police, Mr. Sok said. Thirty rubber-farming families with claims to a total of 168 hec­tares of land in the area have battled the Tai Seng rubber company for ownership of the land since 2005. On March 29, the Appeal Court ruled in favor of the villagers. … Reached by phone Wednesday, Roeun Borin, a representative for Swiss Rubber, confirmed that the two detained workers were employees, and said that his company was granted more than 3,500 hectares of state rubber plantation by the Ministry of Agriculture in late 2010.

Kuch Naren