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Cambodian Tribe Accuses Chinese of Massive Land Grab

A Cambodian minority group in northern Preah Vihear province is calling for the cancelation of two licenses for Chinese companies accused of grabbing thousands of hectares of land.

Members of the Kuoy hill tribe say they want the companies, Rui Feng and Lan Feng, to relinquish 7,000 hectares of land that where granted by the government as part of 18,000 hectares in concessions.

A Kuoy representative, Louth Saing, told reporters Tuesday in Phnom Penh the land concession overlaps with the tribe's traditional land.

"The development has affected land used for rice fields, plantations, and areas used for collecting secondary products by our Kuoy tribe," he said. "We had planned to register the area for our community use."

But the head of the Preah Vihear provincial agriculture office, Peung Trida, dismissed the claims during a phone interview with VOA's Khmer service.

"This land does not seem to have affected anything," Peung said. "Some of the people do not have land. They simply protest when there is an investment there. Actually, those protesters do not own land. Those who have land keep on growing their plantations. There are 20 or 30 people who bring this up."

Land grabs have become a major issue in Cambodia in recent years, with local and foreign companies frequently accused of using government connections to take land from the poor.

(This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Khmer service.)