Cambodia: Rattanakiri provincial governor agrees to return land to indigenous communities after 10 years of a Vietnamese company's occupation

Author: The Asahi Shimbun, Published on: 27 March 2019

"Cambodia returns land taken from indigenous people", 27 March 2019

Cambodia has returned land taken a decade ago from indigenous communities for a Vietnamese company's rubber plantation, a sign that foreign investors are facing greater scrutiny over rights violations, analysts said ...

The governor of the northeastern province of Ratanakari … asked the agriculture ministry to take out 64 areas from the land concessions, including forests, wetlands and burial grounds that belonged to a dozen indigenous communities.

The decision "represents an unprecedented recognition of indigenous land rights over business interests in Cambodia," said Dam Chanty, executive director of Highlanders Association, an indigenous rights organization in Ratanakari.

… Ten years ago, the government gave about 19,000 hectares of land belonging to 12 indigenous villages to Vietnamese rubber growers Hoang Anh Gia Lai (HAGL).

The indigenous communities filed a complaint in 2014 over "serious" environmental and social effects with the World Bank's International Finance Corporation (IFC), which had invested in a fund that financed HAGL's ventures in Cambodia and Laos…

The company, which pulled out of negotiations earlier this year, did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment.

Tuesday's decision returns a further 742 hectares, according to the Highlanders Association and advocacy groups Equitable Cambodia and Indigenous Rights Active Members, which are representing the communities.

"It has taken more than three years of dialogue and negotiations, but this is an important issue that affects indigenous lives and their traditional rights over land," said Eang Vuthy, executive director of Equitable Cambodia…

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Related companies: Hoang Anh Gia Lai (HAGL)