NGO to pay farmer $3,000 for cutting down trees

Source : Khmer Times

Wildlife Alliance cleared the family’s fruit trees in Koh Kong province’s Koh Kong district. Mother Nature

A farming family has agreed to receive $3,000 in compensation from the Wildlife Alliance after it cleared the family’s fruit trees in Koh Kong province’s Koh Kong district.

Yorng Tay, the wife of farmer Seng Thet, said by phone yesterday that Wildlife Alliance agreed to pay $3,000 to her and her husband for clearing their fruit trees, including mangos, durians, coconuts, rambutans and mangosteens.

“On Saturday, Wildlife Alliance provided a document of compensation in English but we do not read English and asked them translate it into the Khmer language,” Ms Tay said. “We have not received the $3,000 compensation from them yet.”

Provincial Hall officials had invited both sides to negotiate after the NGOs workers cut down the trees in the district’s Trapaing Roung commune last week.

The trees were on a hectare of land which Mr Thet claimed, but alliance officials said was a protected area.

Ms Tay noted that authorities have not allowed her to cultivate the one hectare of land involved in the dispute, although she had a receipt proving that the land in Trapaing Roung commune belonged to her and her husband after students measured the area for them.

“There were about 500 families in the commune which had problems with Wildlife Alliance over fruit trees planted in the area,” Ms Tay said. “We protested against them and sent a letter to the provincial governor to solve the problem.”

Man Phala, provincial environment department director, last week said that Wildlife Alliance agreed to pay compensation to Mr Thet after provincial officials invited both sides to discuss the issue.

He said that on Wednesday about 50 villagers protested against Wildlife Alliance at its office and burned an old car left in the compound after it was confiscated during a forestry crime raid.

He noted that the villagers were angry with wildlife officials, who were led by two foreigners, to cut down nearly 100 trees, including mangos, durians and other fruits belonging to Mr Thet.

Provincial Governor Mithona Phouthorng yesterday said that the dispute was resolved because Wildlife Alliance agreed to pay compensation and Mr Thet and his wife have agreed not to cultivate the land because it is in a protected area.

“We do not allow villagers to clear the area because it is protected,” she said. “If they do not have land to farm, they can request Provincial Hall to look into the problem.”

Ms Mithona added that if there are other families which face similar problems as Mr Thet, she will resolve the issue according to the law.

Pen Vuthea, a monitor with human rights group Licadho, last week said that Wildlife Alliance officials cut down fruit trees in Trapaing Roung commune on Tuesday without alerting authorities and the villagers became angry.

“It is not only one villager who had a problem with Wildlife Alliance,” he said. “There are many families living in the area.”

According to a provincial administration report last week, Wildlife Alliance will not demand compensation for the damage done at its office by the villagers.



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