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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 July, 2005, 10:51 GMT 11:51 UK
Cambodia police ban Phnong march
Cambodian police have prevented hundreds of indigenous Phnong people from protesting against a Chinese-owned tree-planting firm.

The Phnong accuse Wuzhishan LS Group of destroying their ancestral sites in the remote province of Mondulkiri.

According to Thun Saray, the president of human rights group Adhoc, about 500 Phnong people tried to march into the town of San Monorom early on Thursday.

But police stopped them in order to keep the town calm, Thun Saray said.

He told the BBC that the local governor was anxious to maintain calm ahead of a visit by King Sihamoni on Saturday.

The Phnong are angry at the Cambodian government's deal with Wuzhishan, which it signed last August.

The plantation group was granted the maximum 10,000 hectare (25,000 acre) land allocation allowed by law.

But according to Adhoc, the company is actually using 199,000 hectares (492,000 acres) of this remote region - much of which is collective land used by indigenous people such as the Phnong.

"The government has asked the company to respect the Phnongs' rights, but it seems the company is not taking these people into account," Thun Saray said.

Wuzhishan reportedly began spraying herbicides in the area in September 2004.

Peter Leuprecht, UN special envoy on human rights in Cambodia, told the Associated Press that the process had desecrated ancestral burial areas and "spirit forests" which the animist Phnong consider sacred.

Country profile: Cambodia
01 Apr 05 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Cambodia
30 Apr 05 |  Country profiles

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