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THAI HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION RECOGNIZES HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS BY SUGAR COMPANY- A MAJOR STEP FOR JUSTICE FOR KOH KONG FARMERS.
E.B.A. MUST BE SUSPENDED FOR SUGAR MADE IN CAMBODIA.
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On Eve Of Key Trial In Cambodian Court, Thailand’s National Human Rights Commission Finds Evidence Of Human Rights Violations While Industry Sugar Association Hears Complaint Against U.K.’s Tate & Lyle Sugars Against Backdrop of Global Sugar Boycott.
Phnom Penh, Cambodia — More than five years after three villages and hundreds of farmers in Koh Kong Province, Cambodia had their lands illegally confiscated to make way for a major international sugar plantation connected to leading Thai, U.K, U.S., and Taiwanese corporations, the Koh Kong Provincial Court of First Instance will finally hear arguments on July 26, 2012. The long-running dispute pits residents of Chikor Leu commune’s villages of Trapeang Kandol, Chhouk and Chikor of Koh Kong’s Srae Ambel District against the companies, Koh Kong Sugar Industry Co., Ltd. (KKS) and Koh Kong Sugar Plantation Co., Ltd. (KKP) over an Economic Land Concession (ELC), that resulted in wide-spread displacement, severe livelihood impacts, and violent human rights violations; two-hundred and twenty villages from the affected communities are plaintiffs in the case, all of whom are appearing before the court on the hearing date.
Civil society organizations in Cambodia released a statement on the legal case this week affirming their support for the impacted communities.
The two implicated companies, KKP and KKS are 70% owned by leading Thai corporation Khon Kaen Sugar Industry Public Company Limited (KSL) which exercises effective control over operations in Cambodia and receives 100% of the processed sugar from the two Cambodian land concessions. Taiwanese Ve Wong Corporation holds 30% of both subsidiary companies, while powerful Cambodian Senator Ly Yong Phat formerly held shares in both subsidiary companies before allegedly relinquishing these stake-holdings in 2010. The sugar produced in Cambodia is then sold to U.K.’s Tate & Lyle Sugars, a subsidiary of Tate & Lyle that was recently acquired by U.S. American Sugar Refinery Company.
The dispute in Srae Ambel District began when the two Thai companies, KKS and KKP were granted ELC’s of 19,100 hectares in Srae Ambel District by the Government of Cambodia in violation of the Land Law 2001, sub-decree on Economic Land Concession 2005, and an agreement made between the companies and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. Under Cambodia law, ELC’s cannot be granted in excess of 10,000 hectares, and in a blatant attempt to circumvent this requirement, KKS and KKP were incorporated separately despite serving a single business interest and essentially operating as one, and were each granted concessions just under 10,000 hectares. No consultations with the farming communities were conducted and no compensation in advance was made.
The dispute has now reached Thailand, where the affected communities through their lawyers, the Community Legal Education Center of Cambodia, filed a complaint with the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand (NHRC) on 6 January 2010 alleging that KSL, through Cambodian subsidiaries KKP and KKS, obtained land concessions in Koh Kong Province, Cambodia in violation of Cambodian laws on economic land concessions and of human rights laws and standards. The complainants based its claim for jurisdiction on KSL’s ownership of KKP and KKS, its control over operations in Cambodia, and its duty to respect human rights wherever it operates. In what the complainants and their supporters consider as a success in transboundary human rights promotion and protection, the Thai NHRC accepted the complaint as case no. 58/2553. Just today, the NHRC released a statement finding evidence that KSL had violated the human rights of the impacted communities through their ELC. The Commission has completed its investigation and is now in the process of drafting the final report. In its statement today (click here for English translation), it confirmed its commitment “to ensure that communities and their natural resources remain protected, and that various human rights principles are applied in meeting the economic, social and environmental pillars for fairness and sustainable development.”
In Cambodia today, hundreds of thousands of people are being displaced from their homes, farmlands, forests and fisheries as investors plunder the country for private profit in the name of ‘development’. In rural areas, more than 2 million hectares have been granted to private companies as concessions for the development of agro-industrial plantations.
The sugarcane industry has been one of the worst offenders driving this land-grabbing crisis. At least 75,000 hectares in economic land concessions have been granted to private companies for industrial sugarcane production in recent years. These concessions have led to the destruction of protected forests, the pollution of water sources, and the forced displacement and dispossession of thousands of people in Koh Kong, Kampong Speu, Oddar Meanchey and Svay Rieng provinces.
Crops have been razed. Animals have been shot. Homes have been burned to the ground. Thousands of people have been left destitute. Some have been thrown in jail for daring to protest.
Despite the abundant evidence of these crimes, none of the responsible individuals and companies have been held to account.
Meanwhile, the sugar that is tainted by gross human rights abuses is exported to Europe, where suppliers and importers receive special trade benefits under the Everything But Arms initiative.
For the past two years, we have called upon the companies that are producing and selling this sugar to provide restitution to those who have lost their land, homes and livelihoods to make way for their plantations. We have sent letters and filed complaints against Ly Yong Phat, Mitr Pohl, KSL, Ve Wong Group, Tate and Lyle Sugars and its parent company American Sugar Refining (owner of the Domino Sugar brand in the United States). These companies have all failed to respond and take action to repair the harm that their business has caused to so many Cambodian families.
So, today we are calling upon consumers around the world to stop buying their products. In particular, we urge consumers to boycott Tate and Lyle and Domino Sugar.
To kick off this campaign, leaders of affected communities and Clean Sugar Campaigners launched a powerful online video at a press conference today in Phnom Penh.
Click here to watch the video or search for Taste and Smile? on YouTube.
Watch it. Share it. Take action.
Sign the petition and let Tate and Lyle Sugars and Domino know you will stop buying their products until they pay back the Cambodian farmers who lost everything so that they can make a profit.
Ten Cambodian and European civil society organizations and coalitions published an open letter to European Union Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht on June 26 calling upon the EU to investigate serious human rights abuses connected to agricultural goods, including sugar, being exported to the EU under the Everything But Arms initiative.