Report looks at dark side of sugar concessions

Says sugar plantations misappropriated land in north Cambodian province of Oddar Meanchey.

Report looks at dark side of sugar concessions

By Lauren Crothers


More than 2,000 families have been affected and at least 3,000 hectares misappropriated for logging by three sugar plantations in the north Cambodian province of Oddar Meanchey, according to a report released Monday.

"Cambodia: The Bitter Taste of Sugar," found that although Angkor Sugar Company, Cambodia Cane and Sugar Valley Company and Tonle Sugar Cane Company were granted almost 20,000 hectares in concessions in 2008, with the purpose of producing sugar, 17,000 hectares have been illegally grabbed and 214 families forcibly evicted from their homes and land.

“The concessionaires signed a logging contract with an unknown company to harvest timber and set up a timber processing plant in Angkor Sugar concession land,” the report, which was commissioned by ActionAid and Oxfam GB found.

“The company, until November 2014, had cleared almost 3,190 hectares of forestland in the concession, processing the timber into train sleepers for export to Thailand. No sugar processing plant was ever built; only 219 hectares of 1.1 percent of the total concession land were planted with sugarcane saplings, which was later cut, burnt and replaced with cassava,” the report said.

According to ActionAid country director Caroline McCausland, such actions are in breach of “at least four national laws and sub-decrees,” and the affected families “entitled to restitution,” including having their land titles restored and compensation paid.

The sugar industry in Cambodia, which consists of 19 concessions spanning 114,000 hectares around the country, has been a hotbed of controversy over the past few years, including allegations of child labour and land grabs.

A report in the Phnom Penh Post on Monday said that Mitr Phol Sugar Corporation, which has stakes in the three concessions mentioned in the report, had actually pulled out of the area a few weeks ago, but that contested land had not been given back to affected villagers. Mitr Phol is one of the primary suppliers of sugar to the Coca Cola corporation.

In January, banking giant ANZ Royal told villagers affected by another sugar concession in Kompong Speu province that it would not compensate them. The bank had financed Phnom Penh Sugar, which is owned by powerful Cambodian People’s Party senator Ly Yong Phat.

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