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Cambodian farmers file lawsuit in Thailand against sugar producer Mitr Phol over alleged land grabbing

Burning_house_in_oddar_meanchey_Photo_Credit_Inclusive Development International

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Article
5 September 2018

Thai court accepts Cambodian farmers' land grabbing lawsuit against sugar producer Mitr Phol, orders mediation

Author: Inclusive Development Intl.

"Thai Court Accepts Cambodian Land Grabbing Case, Orders Mediation", 5 Sep 2018

A Thai court has accepted a landmark lawsuit filed by plaintiffs representing a class of over 700 Cambodian farming families accusing Asia’s largest sugar producer of grabbing their land and destroying their livelihoods...[T]he judges have asked the plaintiffs and the defendant, the Thai sugar giant Mitr Phol, to attempt mediation on September 6.  If mediation fails, litigation will proceed...As the two sides prepare for mediation, the plaintiffs are calling on Mitr Phol’s buyers to use their leverage to ensure that the company provides redress for the harms and human rights violations it caused...

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Article
31 July 2018

Cambodian farmers sue Thai sugar group Mitr Phol over alleged land grab

Author: Reuters

2 April 2018

Farmers from Cambodia have filed a lawsuit in a Thai civil court against Asia’s largest sugar producer, accusing it of rights abuses after it allegedly kicked farmers off their land, a rights group said...The lawsuit, filed on behalf of 3,000 people, is the first class-action lawsuit filed in a Thai court by plaintiffs from another country against a Thai company operating outside Thailand, the group, Inclusive Development International, said in a statement.  The plaintiffs accuse sugar producer Mitr Phol...of violently displacing them in Cambodia’s northwestern Oddar Meanchey province between 2008 and 2009 to make way for plantations.  Mitr Phol said in a statement emailed to Reuters it had invested in Cambodia in “a good faith partnership” with the government and got temporary concessions in compliance with all local and national laws and with assurances from authorities that “all temporary concession areas had been processed legally and transparently”.  It said it had withdrawn from the project in 2014 due to a combination of factors including political tensions along the Thai-Cambodia border, business risks, adverse agricultural conditions and negative publicity...Rights groups have said some concessions have led to forced evictions and land disputes.

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Company response
31 July 2018

Nestlé response

Author: Nestlé

While Mitr Phol appears as a direct supplier to Nestlé and as a tier 2 supplier in other supply chains, mostly via traders, Nestlé does not and has not sourced sugar products from Mitr Phol Group in Cambodia. Regardless, we are concerned by the allegations and continue to follow developments...

We have engaged in intensive supply chain mapping and traceability efforts in the sugar sector over the past six years. This has allowed us to investigate practices at farm and plantation level with our implementation partners. Mitr Phol Thailand was one of the first suppliers to engage in this process. After building a supply chain map linking Mitr Phols’ Thai operations to Nestlé factories in 2013, Proforest carried out a first visit in Danchang in March 2014 followed by a surveillance visit in March 2015. Proforest also visited Mitr Phols’ operations in Chiayphoo in March 2015.

During these assessments, we cover questions related to human rights issues including child labour and working conditions, land ownership and environmental questions like water management and the use of agrochemicals. In February 2017, our Responsible Sourcing team together with our implementing partner organisations visited Mitr Phol to hear more on the company’s progress and commitment to our RSG requirements...

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Article
2 April 2018

Case Brief: Class Action Lawsuit by Cambodian Villagers Against Mitr Phol Sugar Corporation

Author: Inclusive Development International

The plaintiffs  are two  Cambodian  citizens residing in Samrong District, Oddar Meanchey Province, in northwestern Cambodia.  The plaintiffs represent a class of approximately 600 families...The defendant is Mitr Phol Sugar Corporation Limited, a privately owned group of companies domiciled in Thailand...The defendant engages in large-scale sugarcane cultivation, and production and distribution of sugar...In January 2008, the Cambodian Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) granted three 70-year economic land concessions (ELCs) for industrial sugarcane production in the Samraong and Chongkal districts of Oddar Meanchey province to the three companies linked to Mitr Pohl...Cambodian Land Law Article 59 says that “Land concession areas shall not be more than 10,000 hectares” and that “the issuance of land concession titles on several places relating to surface areas that are greater than [10,000 hectaress]in favor of one specific person or several legal entities controlled by the same natural  persons  is  prohibited.”...Throughout 2008-2009, the plaintiffs and group members were forced to give up their land for the Angkor Sugar Company concession.  Affected households lost extensive rice fields, plantation/orchard land, and grazing land as well as the associated crops that sustained their livelihoods...The gravest human rights violations occurred in O’Bat Moan village, which was entirely destroyed to make way for the defendant’s plantations...The  plaintiffs...are  seeking  to claim their right  to an effective remedy in the justice system of Thailand...

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Article
2 April 2018

Forcibly Displaced Cambodians File Historic Lawsuit against Asia’s Largest Sugar Producer

Author: Inclusive Development International

Displaced farmers from Cambodia have filed a landmark class-action lawsuit against the Thai sugar giant Mitr Phol.  The legal complaint was filed in a Thai civil court by two plaintiffs representing a class of approximately 3000 people who were violently displaced and dispossessed of their land and livelihoods in five remote villages in northwestern Cambodia to clear the way for a Mitr Pohl sugarcane plantation between 2008 and 2009.  Mitr Phol, the world’s fourth-largest sugar producer, supplies global brands including Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Nestle and Mars...The suit alleges that Mitr Phol’s operation in Cambodia’s Oddar Meanchey province resulted in violent forced evictions, burning of homes, looting of crops and livestock and the seizure of land that was legally held by local farmers.  Forests inside the company’s land concessions that local communities relied upon for their livelihoods were illegally logged.  Those who resisted were threatened, arrested and imprisoned...Landless and unable to make a living, many of the families have become deeply impoverished...[T]he National Human Rights Commission of Thailand found Mitr Phol directly responsible for human rights violations committed in conjunction with its operations in Cambodia...Mitr Phol told the commission that it would compensate affected people in accordance with international standards but has failed to do so.  The legal complaint agues that a ruling in favor of the plaintiffs would be in the public interest, because it would make Thai companies more likely to refrain from violating human rights in foreign countries...The Legal Rights and Environmental Protection Lawyers Advocacy Association and the Community Resource Centre Foundation are representing the plaintiffs in the class action lawsuit.

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