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16 Dec 2019

Moniroth Morm, VOD

Cambodia: Investigative report shows that sugar land economic concessions lead thousands of indigenous people lose their land and trap into debt

"Plantations Skirted Laws to Amass Land, Driving Locals Into Debt", 13 December 2019

Thousands of indigenous Kuy people in Preah Vihear province are losing their livelihoods — with almost entire villages falling into debt — as five sugar plantations linked to one Chinese company have cleared an estimated 20,000 hectares of forests and locals’ farmland.

Based on interviews with 25 local residents as well as input from NGO researchers and an investigation of the area, VOD has found that five companies linked to Guangdong, China’s Hengfu International Sugar, skirted Cambodian laws and permits to amass economic land concessions four times larger in total than allowed for a single entity; razed forests before producing an environmental impact assessment, notifying villagers or compensating those affected; and cleared land too close to waterways.

Agriculture Minister Veng Sokhon acknowledged there were “some shortcomings” surrounding the sugarcane plantations...

Inadequate to no compensation to displaced locals, and a small proportion of indigenous groups receiving collective land titles have also been highlighted by the E.U.

Residents of Preus Kaak village in Chheb district’s M’Lou Prey 2 commune estimated that 90 percent of the village was currently in debt.

“Before the companies’ arrival, we were able to hunt wild animals and sell them for petroleum, or liquid resin, dry resin, or orchids, or ginseng, or sticky rice,” said Iem Aon, 60, who lives in Preus Kaak...

Am Sam Ath, monitoring manager for human rights organization Licadho, said companies in Preah Vihear and three other provinces were included in the European Commission’s EBA rights compliance review.