2012-07 Cambodia NGO statement on Koh Kong trial




Phnom Penh, Cambodia -­‐-­‐ More than five years after three villages and hundreds of farmers in Koh Kong Province, Cambodia had their lands illegally confiscated to make way for a major international sugar plantation connected to leading Thai, U.K, U.S., and Taiwanese corporations, the Koh Kong Provincial Court of First Instance will finally hear arguments on July 26, 2012. The long-­‐running dispute pits residents of Chikor Leu commune’s villages of Trapeang Kandol, Chhouk and Chikor of Koh Kong’s Srae Ambel District against the companies, Koh Kong Sugar Industry Co., Ltd. (KKS) and Koh Kong Sugar Plantation Co., Ltd. (KKP) over an Economic Land Concession (ELC), that resulted in wide-­‐spread displacement, severe livelihood impacts, and violent human rights violations; two-­‐ hundred and twenty villages from the affected communities are plaintiffs in the case, all of whom are appearing before the court on the hearing date.

Civil society organizations in Cambodia released a statement on the legal case this week affirming their support for the impacted communities.

The two implicated companies, KKP and KKS are 70% owned by leading Thai corporation Khon Kaen Sugar Industry Public Company Limited (KSL) which exercises effective control over operations in Cambodia and receives 100% of the processed sugar from the two Cambodian land concessions. Taiwanese Ve Wong Corporation holds 30% of both subsidiary companies, while powerful Cambodian Senator Ly Yong Phat formerly held shares in both subsidiary companies before allegedly relinquishing these stake-­‐holdings in 2010. The sugar produced in Cambodia is then sold to U.K.’s Tate & Lyle Sugars, a subsidiary of Tate & Lyle that was recently acquired by U.S. American Sugar Refinery Company.

The dispute in Srae Ambel District began when the two Thai companies, KKS and KKP were granted ELC’s of 19,100 hectares in Srae Ambel District by the Government of Cambodia in violation of the Land Law 2001, sub-­‐decree on Economic Land Concession 2005, and an agreement made between the companies and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. Under Cambodia law, ELC’s cannot be granted in excess of 10,000 hectares, and in a blatant attempt to circumvent this requirement, KKS and KKP were incorporated separately despite serving a single business interest and essentially operating as one, and were each granted concessions just under 10,000 hectares. No consultations with the farming communities were conducted and no compensation in advance was made.

The dispute has now reached Thailand, where the affected communities through their lawyers, the Community Legal Education Center of Cambodia, filed a complaint with the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand (NHRC) on 6 January 2010 alleging that KSL, through Cambodian subsidiaries KKP and KKS, obtained land concessions in Koh Kong Province, Cambodia in violation of Cambodian laws on economic land concessions and of human rights laws and standards. The complainants based its claim for jurisdiction on KSL’s ownership of KKP and KKS, its control over operations in Cambodia, and its duty to respect human rights wherever it operates. In what the complainants and their supporters consider as a success in transboundary human rights promotion and protection, the Thai NHRC accepted the complaint as case no. 58/2553. Just today, the NHRC released a statement (see Appendix 2) finding evidence that KSL had violated the human rights of the impacted communities through their ELC. The Commission has completed its investigation and is now in the process of drafting the final report. In its statement today, it confirmed its commitment “to ensure that communities and their natural resources remain protected, and that various human rights principles are applied in meeting the economic, social and environmental pillars for fairness and sustainable development.”

Thai farmers are supporting their Cambodian counterparts, and calling on the Thai companies and Thai government to address the blatant human rights abuses in this case. Mr. Ubon Yuwaa, Coordinator of the Thai Contract Farmer Network stated, “The Thailand contract farmers who have been suffering from thesugar industry, are calling for the responsibility of both Thai sugar companies and Thai government on Thai investment in neighboring countries. While the companies need to prove their transparency and fair investment, the Thai government needs to make sure that they have a good monitoring system to control those Thai investors. Without good governance in investment, Thailand will be nothing but a bad guy in the ASEAN community”.

The high profile case has led to an international boycott of the U.K.’s Tate & Lyle Sugar — which purchases 100% of the sugar from KSL’s operations in Cambodia — and a current review of the case by the E.U. under its Everything But Arms trade arrangement. Tate & Lyle is also the subject of a complaint under the Bonsucro standard, the sugar industry’s metric for responsible sugarcane production. The complaint was filed over a year ago and has not been resolved since.

The U.N. also recognizes the massive abuses and displacement caused by ELC’s as investors plunder the country for private profit in the name of development and is currently investigating the issue. On May 11, 2012, the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Cambodia, Professor Surya P. Subedi, released a public statement finding that while there are some legal protections in Cambodia governing the granting and management of land concessions, “the legal framework on paper is one thing; the implementation of the law is another. I have been consistently informed that the formal framework relating to land concessions is not being applied properly in some cases.” The Special Rapporteur’s final report will be submitted to the UN Human Rights Council (“UN HRC”) in September of 2012.

Abuses including widespread reports of illegal land concessions associated with ELC’s in Cambodia led to a May 7, 2012 Order by Cambodian Prime Minister Samdach Akak Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen instructing all ministries, institutions, and involved authorities to immediately: Temporarily suspend all new economic land concessions; and for previously issued economic land concessions, where the company receiving the concession did not follow the land law and sub-­‐decrees or abide by the ELC contract, including taking people’s or communities land, confiscate the ELC land for the state to directly manage.


Community Legal Education Center (Cambodia)

Mr. AM Sokha, Case Coordinator: +855 66 777 031 Ms. NY Sorphornneary, Lawyer: +855 66 777 027

Thai Contract Farmer Network (Thailand)

Mr. Uboh Yuwa, Coordinator, Thai Contract Farmer Network: + 66 (0) 81 5460243

EarthRights International (Thailand)

Mr. Paul Donowitz, Campaign Director: paul@earthrights.org: +66 (0) 85 5234298

Towards Ecological Recovery and Regional Alliance (Thailand) Ms. Premrudee Daoroung: premrudee@terraper.org

Joint Statement

Dispute over Economic Land Concession in Koh Kong’s ChikorLeu Commune in SraeAmbel District

24 July, 2012

The undersigned civil society organizations welcome Koh Kong provincial court of first instance who decide to take the case file ofthe dispute over Economic Land Concessions (ELCs) between the residents of 220 families in ChikorLeu commune’s villages of TrapeangKandol, Chhouk and Chikorof Koh Kong’s SraeAmbel district and the Companies, Koh Kong Sugar Industry Co., Ltd. (KKS) and Koh Kong Sugar Plantation Co., Ltd. (KKP) for an oral argument which will take place on July 26, 2012.

The residents of the three villages had been occupying and using their land and each year enjoyed the products from the land since 1979. The Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) granted the Economic Land Concession to both companies, KKS and KKP on July 18, 2006 and the agreement on the ELCs was signed between the companies and Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery (MAFF) on August 02, 2006. The ELCS were granted to the companies for sugarcane plantation and construction of sugar refinery.

Apparently, both companies began clearing the villagers’ land on May 19, 2006, which was two months before they were granted the concessions. 1490.847 hectares of the villagers’ land were affected by the clearance activities and crops were damaged. The villagers have so far been trying to seek resolution to the dispute from government institutions, including national assembly, senate and court.

The two companies that were granted ELCs by the RGC have not follow the provisions of the Land Law 2001, sub-­‐decree on Economic Land Concession 2005 and the agreement made between the companies and the MAFF. It is apparent that both companies were granted more land than the 10,000 hectares allowed under the law, amounting to 19,100 hectares under the control of the same person. No consultation was conducted and no compensation in advance was made. The legal processes not being followed by the companies caused a fierce and protracted land dispute between the companies and the local residents.

The affected families hope that the provincial court of first instance in Koh Kong will find justice for which they have waited for a long time.

Point 3 of the regulation No. 01 dated May 7, 2012 by the RGC on actions taken to strengthen and improve the effectiveness in controlling economic land states “any company that received permission in principal from RGC, but does not follow the existing legal processes and the agreement … and infringe the residents or communities’ land, RGC will cancel the ELCs.”

We strongly hope that the Provincial Court of First Instance in Koh Kong will independently and neutrally make its decision based on legal principles, and find just resolution for the villagers.

For information, please contact:
– Mr. Om SamArt, Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights

(LICADHO), Tel: 066 33 23 33

– Mr. Am Sokha, Community Legal Education Center (CLEC) Tel: 066 77 70 31

– Mr. Eang Vuthy, Equitable Cambodia (EC) Tel: 012 79 17 00

This statement is supported by:

  • –  Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee (CHRAC)
  • –  Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO)
  • –  Equitable Cambodia (EC)
  • –  Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR)
  • –  Community Peace Network (CPN)
  • –  NGO-­‐FORUM
  • –  Building Community Voice (BCV)
  • –  Community Legal Education Center (CLEC)
  • –  EarthRights International (ERI)
  • –  Inclusive Development International (IDI)

One response to “2012-07 Cambodia NGO statement on Koh Kong trial

  1. Pingback: Is the European Commission sweet on land grabbing? Trade benefits, sugarcane concessions and dispossession in Cambodia – UPDATED | TerraNullius

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