EU delegates briefed on sugar land disputes in Cambodia
by Pech Sothery
High-ranking ministerial officials met with a European Union delegation on Tuesday to discuss the issue of displaced peoples locked in land disputes with several sugar companies across the country.
The EU delegation is currently in the Kingdom on a fact-finding mission, which includes a series of meetings with officials over the number of people displaced by Economic Land Concessions.
The delegation’s visit is a part of the EU’s mission to review the human rights situation in Cambodia before making a decision on its access to the Everything-but-arms scheme.
“The mission has met a range of interlocutors from government, civil society, labour unions, the private sector and the international community,” EU Ambassador to Cambodia George Edgar said last night, adding that the meetings will determine Cambodia’s access to the EBA treaty.
Mr Edgar and Alina Boiciuc, an official with the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Trade, met with the Ministers of Land Management and Environment, along with the Koh Kong provincial governor and other officials on Tuesday.
Land Management Ministry spokesman Seng Lot said yesterday that the meeting evaluated land disputes involving thousands of families in Koh Kong, Preah Vihear and Oddar Meanchey provinces.
Mr Lot said that the ministers explained that resolutions have been implemented by providing land and money to villagers who were displaced.
“We have already 100 percent resolved issues in three provinces,” he said. “There is no more disputes with sugar plantations. But in Kampong Speu province, we are currently working on it and a solution will be provided in the future.”
He said that officials need more time to solve the land dispute in Kampong Speu due to the verification process the ministry has to conduct in order to avoid mistakes and ensure justice and transparency.
“We have to find out who the real victims are. In the past, others have filed complaints that were dismissed by the ministry because after we carried out the verification process, we found that they weren’t involved in the dispute,” he said.
Mr Lot added that an inter-ministerial working team tasked with solving land disputes is also preparing a report in English consisting of land listings and relevant documents for the EU delegation.
He said that the EU delegation lauded the ministry’s efforts in resolving land disputes.
According to a report by the Land Management Ministry, ELCs have been granted to several sugar companies such as the Koh Kong Plantation, Koh Kong Sugar Industry, Phnom Penh Sugar, Kampong Speu Sugar, Rui Feng, Lan Feng, Heng You and Heng Nong.
Horn Khorn, a 62-year-old Kampong Speu province resident who protested her displacement for years, said yesterday that Phnom Penh Sugar and Kampong Speu Sugar companies cleared her farm and began development of sugar crops in 2010.
Ms Khorn said that during the dispute, families in Oral and Thpong districts were affected as no suitable compensation was provided for them.
As of today, there are still many displaced families waiting for their resolution, she noted.
“We are asking the ministry to resolve the issue and give us back our land,” Ms Khorn said.