Two organisations aiming to restore indigenous land around the world on Wednesday expressed concern over land in Preah Vihear province after a major Chinese conglomerate began developing it with approval of the government.
The International Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self-determination and Liberation said in a statement that it is collaborating with the People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty to urge the governments of Cambodia and China to hold Guangdong Hengfu Group Sugar Industry accountable for the loss of indigenous land in Cambodia.
“We express solidarity to farmers and indigenous communities in Preah Vihear province in Cambodia, who have been struggling for more than five years to assert their rights over disputed land,” said IPMSDL global coordinator Beverly Longid.
“We hope that our global action will pressure both the governments of China and Cambodia to finally fulfil their mandate in protecting the welfare of affected people, especially indigenous Kuoy villagers,” Ms Longid added.
Roy Anunciacon, PCFS global secretariat coordinator, said that representatives of the indigenous Kuoy have been communicating with various international organisations including the United Nations for intervention.
Mr Anunciacon said that the Cambodian government has not done enough to settle disputes involving Chinese companies working throughout the country.
“While there are numerous laws and international conventions that provide measures on holding corporate violators accountable, it really takes [strong] political will for justice to take place,” he said. “In Preah Vihear, the people are exercising their right to protest. We stand with them and demand that Cambodia cancel its land concession with Hengfu, pull it out of Cambodia and hold it accountable for its violations.”
Hengfu, a sugar company based in China, was in 2011 and 2016 granted Economic Land Concessions of more than 42,000 hecatres in Preah Vihear by the Cambodian government.
Past research conducted by international NGOs in 2016 concluded that five of its subsidiaries received land, including Heng Nong, Heng Rui, Lan Feng, Heng You and Rui Feng.
The company opened a $360 million mill and refinery that same year with the aim of supplying sugar to markets in the European Union, India, and China.
Ang Cheatlom, Ponlok Khmer Organisation executive director, said the Chinese companies in Preah Vihear have grabbed indigenous lands.
“The land that the Chinese company grabbed from people is something the government has yet to resolve,” Mr Cheatlom said. “The government gave some land titles to villagers, but indigenous people didn’t receive any.”
He added that any protest against the company was met with resistance from the government.
“When they protest against the company, the authorities treat them as if they’re the enemy,” he said.
Sut Savorn, a member of the Kuoy minority and head of the Brame community in Tbeng Meanchey district, said that land grabbing by the company has affected hundreds of families in the area.
“I think that the Chinese company investing in the province is wrong because they are grabbing the people’s land,” he said. “We have been protesting for our right to occupy our own land, but the authorities will not help us.”
Lang Fung, foreman of Lan Feng, could not be reached for comment yesterday. Provincial Governor Un Chanda also could not be reached.
Deputy Governor Sou Serey said yesterday dismissed the accusations as untrue.
“Some NGOs think of only their interests and they incite people to protest against the company and the government,” he said.