Villagers in Mondulkiri province have pleaded with local authorities to intervene after a company behind a nearby rubber plantation began charging them 20,000 riel ($5) to use a local road.
Security guards at the Tong Min Group property told villagers from Pech Chreada district’s Pou Chrei commune they must pay the toll because the company upgraded the road.
They are charged 20,000 riel every time they pass the rubber plantation.
Mr Hoeun, a villager from Pou Chrei said 256 local families had to pay the security guard when they travelled from Mondulkiri to Kratie province or from Kratie to Mondulkiri.
“It was an old road that people used to travel on, but when the company came they built a new road and started taking money from us,” he said.
“We would like to ask the provincial governor to tell the company to stop taking money from us. We are so poor. We find it really difficult to pay them.”
Village representative Touch Saroeun said the company security guard would not allow people to cross the road unless they paid.
“They said this road was constructed by the company so we have to pay them. But we have lived here since 1999, before the company.
They also blocked off many places surrounding the company land,” she said. “Twenty thousand riel is a lot for us.”
Mondulkiri Governor Svay Sam Eang said the company is located in Kratie province but people from Mondulkiri need access to the road.
He said he had asked the company to stop taking money from villagers but had not received a reply. He added: “If the company was in my province, I would immediately tear down the road block, but I have to cooperate with Kratie authorities.”
Tong Min Group Engineering received an economic land concession from the government for 7,465 hectares in Kratie district, Kratie province in 2007.
Tong Min director Zhang Zhen Zhong could not be reach for comment but a company representative told local media only large trucks were charged to travel on the road.
Provincial Adhoc coordinator Sok Ratha said he would like the Interior Ministry to investigate the case.
“The company’s action is illegal because people have the right to use the public road. I think locals should file a court complaint,” he said.