Koh Kong sugar plantation lawsuits (re Cambodia)

In 2007, Cambodian villagers filed a complaint against Koh Kong Plantation and Sugar Industry in Koh Kong Provincial Court, seeking cancellation of economic concessions granted to the sugar companies. The villagers allege they were violently evicted from their lands to make room for the sugar plantation. In 2013, in response to failed negotiations in Cambodia, 200 villagers filed a complaint in England against Tate &Lyle, who are supplied by the Koh Kong Sugar Companies. They maintain they are the legal owners of the land on which the plantation sits. Tate & Lyle maintain the land is rightfully theirs and they are unaware of the forceful eviction. The lawsuit is ongoing. 

sugar plantation Dario Pignatelli, BloombergIn August 2006, the Cambodian Government granted economic concessions in Koh Kong Province to two Cambodian sugar companies (Koh Kong Plantation and Koh Kong Sugar Industry), both jointly owned by the Thai company Khon Kaen Sugar Industry, Taiwanese Ve Wong Corporation and Cambodian Senator Ly Yong Phat.  About 4000 Koh Kong villagers claim that they were violently evicted from their lands and relocated involuntarily to make room for a sugar plantation run by the Koh Kong companies.  The villagers claim that they were never consulted prior to the grant of the concessions and that the land transfer is illegal.  The Koh Kong companies entered into a five-year contract with the UK-headquartered company Tate & Lyle for sale of sugar from these plantations in 2009. 

In February 2007, the villagers filed a complaint against Koh Kong Plantation and Koh Kong Sugar Industry in Koh Kong Provincial Court, seeking cancellation of the concession contract.  In September 2012, a judge ruled that the court did not have the power to hear land disputes and transferred the case to the Cadastral Commission.  Following this decision, villagers held talks with the Ministry of Justice to have the case sent back to the court on the grounds that their claim is about the legality of the concession rather than land ownership.  To date neither the Ministry nor the Cadastral Commission has taken action.  In June 2015, the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand released a report in which it recognises that the human rights violations had occurred at the site of the sugar plantation.

In March 2013, 200 villagers filed a complaint in England against Tate & Lyle and T&L Sugars Limited (a subsidiary of American Sugar Refining).  The plaintiffs maintain that they remain the legal owners of the land on which the Koh Kong companies grew sugar.  Therefore, they claim that under Cambodian law they are the rightful owners of the crops grown on their land.  The villagers are claiming compensation for the profit from selling the sugar.  The defendants argue that they do not have knowledge of the facts asserted by the plaintiffs and seek to be declared the rightful owners of the sugar purchased from the Koh Kong companies.  The lawsuit is ongoing.

- “Private property, public greed in Cambodia”, Joel Brinkley, Politico [USA], 6 May 2013
- “Cambodia: Tate & Lyle defends land deal”, Sugaronline, 17 Apr 2013
- “Cambodia farmers launch action against Tate & Lyle”, Rob Davies, This is Money [UK], 12 Apr 2013
"Cambodia Clean Sugar" campaign - company responses & non-responses , compiled by Business and Human Rights Resource Centre, Jul-Oct 2012 

- Cambodian Center for Human Rights: CCHR welcomes ground-breaking proceedings initiated in the courts of England and Wales against two subsidiaries of UK-based Tate & Lyle plc on behalf of 200 displaced Cambodian villagers, 11 Apr 2013
- Jones Day [UK counsel for villagers]: Cambodian villagers defend their land rights, Oct 2011

Song Mao & Others, and, Tate and Lyle Industry Limited and T&L Sugars Limited – before the English High Court of Justice, Queen’s Bench Division, Commercial Court
- [PDF] Defence and Counterclaim of the First and Second Defendants, 2 May 2013
- [PDF] Particulars of Claim, 28 Mar 2013 [initial court filing of Cambodian villagers]

National Human Rights Commission of Thailand
- English translation (unofficial) of Findings Report regarding Khon Kaen Sugar Industry Public Company Limited, 10 Mar 2015
- Findings Report regarding Khon Kaen Sugar Industry Public Company Limited, 10 Mar 2015 [official version, in Thai]

Get RSS feed of these results

All components of this story

27 December 2019

Cambodia: About 100 community representatives seek intervention for their compensation from a UK company - Tate & Lyle

Author: Sokun Khut, VOD

"Villagers Accuse UK Firm of Failing to Pay Compensation in Sugar Dispute", 26 December 2019

The Ministry of Land Management ... denied requests to intervene in a Koh Kong sugar land dispute following villagers’ protests that foreign firms had failed to provide promised compensation for their evictions.

..., more than 100 villagers, representing about 200 families in Chi Khor Leu commune in Sre Ambel district, gathered in front of the Ministry of Land Management. They urged minister Chea Sophara to intervene as they claimed London-based buyer company Tate & Lyle Sugars had promised to compensate them $6,000 per family.

Eang Vuthy, director of land rights organization Equitable Cambodia, which works on the case, confirmed that there had been a settlement agreement, but declined to specify the amount due to confidentiality issues. “The agreement was signed 4-5 years ago between the 200 households, KSL and Tate&Lyle,” he told...

The ministry said in a notice ... that it could not intervene in the case as it concerned a contract dispute, and asked the villagers’ representatives to file a legal complaint instead.

Representative Im Sokhorn expressed her disappointment over the ministry’s decision...

Claire Crill, Tate & Lyle Sugars’ head of corporate affairs, told ... that discussions were ongoing. “A spokesperson for T&L Sugars said that the company was still in discussions with the representatives of the villagers. All parties have agreed that the discussions remain confidential and so it would be inappropriate for us to comment further at this stage,” she said in an email. Tate & Lyle Sugars was split off from Tate & Lyle in 2010...

Read the full post here

21 January 2016

Cambodia: Villagers ask local authorities to solve land dispute with Koh Kong Sugar & Koh Kong Plantation companies

Author: Pech Sotheary, Phnom Penh Post (Cambodia)

"Koh Kong villagers deliver petitions", 21 Jan 2016

Seeking a resolution to a decadelong land dispute with two Koh Kong province sugar companies, about 100 villagers representing more than 500 families delivered petitions yesterday to four commune halls in Sre Ambel and Botum Sakor districts appealing for action…[The] petitions request action over 2,446.5 hectares disputed with the Koh Kong Sugar and Koh Kong Plantation companies…[A]ll four commune chiefs confirmed receipt of the petitions and urged the commune authorities to work with higher levels of government to resolve the dispute…Koh Kong Provincial Hall spokesman Ouch Touch said authorities will try to solve the dispute. “We try to solve it by the law. We never forget to keep any documents related with this dispute.”

Read the full post here

24 July 2015

National Human Rights Commission of Thailand promotes human rights in transboundary investments

Author: Maureen Harris, Earth Rights International

“Landmark Report Promotes Human Rights in Transboundary Investments“, 10 Jun 2015

Almost 10 years ago, hundreds of villagers in Sre Ambel District in Koh Kong Province in south-western Cambodia were violently evicted from their homes to make way for a massive land concession granted to a group of companies to develop a sugar plantation and processing factory…majority owned by Thai company Khon Kaen Sugar Limited (KSL)…Now, finally, a report of the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand (NHRCT) has publicly acknowledged these human rights violations…[and] found that the land grab violated the right to life, the right to self-determination, including the right to manage and benefit from natural resources, and the right to development of the affected villagers...The NHRCT’s investigation has been recognized by Surya Subedi, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Cambodia, as “a landmark case for international advocacy in Cambodia”…Measures are urgently needed within ASEAN to implement and strengthen recognition of [extra-territorial obligations] at national and regional levels and ensure access to remedy for affected communities…

🚫Read the full post here

4 June 2015

Natl. Human Rights Commission of Thailand confirms human rights abuses in Koh Kong sugar plantation in Cambodia

Author: EarthRights International

"Human Rights Violations in Koh Kong Sugar Plantation Confirmed by Thai Human Rights Commission", 3 Jun 2015

Hundreds of villagers were evicted when their land was illegally confiscated in 2006 to make way for a 19,100 hectare sugar plantation in Sre Ambel, Koh Kong Province, Cambodia. Almost a decade after the forced evictions, a long-awaited final report by the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand (NHRCT) has recognized the human rights violations at the plantation...The sugar plantation is operated by politically-connected Cambodian companies, controlled by Thai sugar giant Khon Kaen Sugar Ltd. (KSL), which had an exclusive sales contract with Tate & Lyle Sugars (T&L)...The report...finds that KSL bears the responsibility for human rights violations due to its decision to receive and benefit from the land concession which resulted in these violations, even if the company did not itself commit the abuses...The final report confirms those preliminary findings, stating that the land grab was in violation of the right to life, the right to self-determination, including the right to manage and benefit from natural resources, and the right to development... 


Read the full post here

+ Español - Hide

Author: Centro de Información sobre Empresas y Derechos Humanos

Bienvenidos a nuestro Boletín Trimestral de Responsabilidad Legal Empresarial, rediseñado y optimizado para resaltar un tema de importancia cada trimestre, así como novedades clave en los casos ya publicados. El portal de Responsabilidad Legal Empresarial proporciona información objetiva y concisa sobre las demandas instauradas en contra de empresas en las que se presume se han violado los derechos humanos...Tema destacado del trimestre: ¿Un Nuevo camino para acceder a recursos legales?...[L]as víctimas de abusos empresariales en contra de los derechos humanos y sus abogados defensores siguen buscando nuevas rutas para acceder a recursos legales, más allá de los sistemas judiciales tradicionales. Uno de dichos caminos es la Corte Penal Internacional (CPI)...Si la CPI o cualquier otro organismo internacional podrían, ó no ofrecer acceso a la justicia en estos casos, está por verse...

Read the full post here

+ Français - Hide

Author: Centre de Ressources sur les Entreprises et les Droits de l'Homme

Bienvenue à notre Bulletin trimestriel sur la responsabilité juridique des entreprises, publié sous un nouveau format plus épuré pour mettre en relief un fait saillant à chaque trimestre, de même que des développements importants.La plateforme sur la Responsabilité juridique des entreprises sur notre site internet fournit des informations objectives, concises sur les procès contre des entreprises dans lesquels sont avancées des allégations de violations des droits de l'homme…Actualité trimestrielle: Une nouvelle voie d'accès au recours?... [L]es victimes de violations des droits de l'homme par les entreprises et leurs avocats recherchent des alternatives aux systèmes judiciaires traditionnels en explorant de nouvelles voies d'accès au recours. Parmi celles-ci, il y'a la Cour Pénale Internationale (CPI)… Reste à voir si la CPI ou d'autres organes internationaux leur rendront justice…

Read the full post here

27 October 2014

Cambodia: Evictees in land dispute claim Thai company made them sign compensation agreements they can’t read – includes company comments

Author: Aun Pheap & Zsombor Peter, Cambodia Daily

“Evictees Sign Payout Deal They Can’t Read”, 27 October 2014

Some of the families in a protracted land dispute with a pair of Thai-owned sugar plantations in Koh Kong province say they were pressured…into signing compensation deals with the firms they could not read, because they were written in Thai, and without their lawyers present…Five of those families are among 200 involved in a class-action lawsuit filed in London against…firms that bought sugar from the plantations for two years—Tate & Lyle Industries and T & L Sugar…Thananot Tuaprakhon, a section manager for one of the plantations…initially told a reporter…that the documents were provided not only in Thai, but also in Khmer and English. However, when told that the villagers who took the cash claimed otherwise, Mr. Thananot said he was no longer sure...Thanakorn Burintarachart, the plantations’ general manager, invited the European Union and several rights groups to observe the payouts…Leigh Day [counsel of the villagers in the UK lawsuit] sent Mr. Thanakorn a letter asking him to hold off, so that the law firm and the Community Legal Education Center, a local NGO helping the families, could consult with and counsel their clients…But Mr. Thananot, the plantation section manager, said the meeting went ahead because KSL was eager to win back its U.K. buyer…

🚫Read the full post here

7 October 2014

Cambodians claim land grabs are crime against humanity [Subscription only]

Author: Michael Peel, Financial Times

A petition to be filed at The Hague on Tuesday against a group of politicians, security chiefs and business magnates in the southeast Asian country raises the stakes for land disputes by arguing that systematic illegal seizures can be a crime against humanity...[T]he argument behind it has a potential impact on sectors such as resources and commodities, where companies are increasingly becoming embroiled in disputes over land rights. “The message this case sends to companies is that they need to do their due diligence much more carefully,” said Richard Rogers, a partner in Global Diligence, the London-based law firm bringing the ICC claim...In a separate Cambodia damages case brought to the High Court in London last year, 200 villagers allege a sugar business formerly owned by the UK’s Tate & Lyle sourced cane from a plantation...on land grabbed by government agents, including military police. “In our view, there is no basis for the villagers’ claims against us,” T& L Sugars said...The new Cambodia claim to the ICC accuses the country’s ruling elite of a “widespread and systematic attack” on the rights of the civilian population, including land-grabbing “on a truly massive scale”... [Also refers to CocaCola] 

Read the full post here

16 July 2014

Cambodia: Tate & Lyle Sugar’s offer of new land & money reportedly rejected by villagers; UK lawsuit set to proceed

Author: Kuch Naren & Zsombor Peter, Cambodia Daily

“Evictees Reject Latest Offer From UK Sugar Firm”, 10 June 2014

Representatives for the 200 Cambodian families suing U.K. sugar firm Tate & Lyle for allegedly profiting off of their stolen land say they have rejected the firm’s latest offer to settle the dispute and are looking forward to their first court date, set for October. The families are among the more than 400 who accuse a pair of majority-Thai-owned sugar plantations in Koh Kong province of illegally seizing their farms starting in 2006...A source familiar with the negotiations…said Khon Kaen had offered the families replacement farms on a different part of their land equal to what the families lost, a figure the families put at 1,364 hectares...Tate & Lyle has denied any responsibility for the allegations the families have leveled against the plantations…

🚫Read the full post here

15 July 2014

Cambodia: Tate & Lyle resigns from Bonsucro; company claims pending UK lawsuit makes them unable to “play an active role” in the initiative

Author: Clothilde Le Coz & Marta Kasztelan, Food Navigator Asia

“Questions to answer for Tate & Lyle in Cambodian land-grabbing action”, 24 June 2014

…[One] of Britain’s biggest sugar producing companies resigned from…voluntary ethical sugar initiative [Bonsucro]…amid suggestions of illegal land-grabbing…Tate & Lyle said it resigned from the scheme because it was “not able to play an active role in Bonsucro” until the conclusion of the court proceedings in a related suit filed against it in a UK court…[The] sugar giant had offered the plaintiffs $305,000 and 134 hectares of land for dropping the suit. But with the company’s offer rejected, the first hearing is scheduled to take place in October…

Read the full post here