Statement in response to to Phnom Penh Sugar Company’s allegations against Equitable Cambodia Executive Director Eang Vuthy

On August 18, 2014, the Phnom Penh Sugar Co. Ltd., took out advertisements in several major Cambodian newspapers accusing Equitable Cambodia’s Executive Director, Mr. Eang Vuthy, of making false and misleading statements about Oknha Ly Yong Phat, and causing “irreparable damage” to the Senator’s reputation as well as that of his business, Phnom Penh Sugar.

However, during the press briefing, Eang Vuthy did not say anything to suggest that the Senator was currently involved in the operations of these sugar companies. Video footage from the event confirms this assertion.

At issue are statements allegedly made by Eang Vuthy during a press briefing on 13 August 2014 that link Ly Yong Phat to sugar concessions in Koh Kong and Oddar Meanchey provinces. In the advertisements, Phnom Penh Sugar claim that such “accusations” are “irresponsible and entirely without foundation.”

Read the full statement

Thai human rights body says plantation stole land

Thai Human Rights Body Says Plantations Stole Land
The Cambodia Daily,  By  | AUGUST 14, 2014

The National Human Rights Commission of Thailand on Wednesday corroborated claims that a Thai sugar company that supplied Coca-Cola has illegally taken land off of villagers in Oddar Meanchey province and violated their human rights, more than a year after the communities filed their complaint with the commission.

With the aid of local NGOs, the villagers lodged their complaint with the commission in May 2013, accusing three plantations owned by Thai sugar giant Mitr Phol of stealing their farms five years ago —in some cases burning and razing their homes. They accuse the company of shooting their livestock or holding them for ransom, and of using the local police and courts to beat, harass and sue them.

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SMH: ANZ says no to evicted Cambodian farmers

 

ANZ is resisting pressure to assist the hundreds of families who claim they been adversely affected.ANZ is resisting pressure to assist the hundreds of families who claim they been adversely affected. Photo: Ken Irwin

ANZ has ruled out helping hundreds of poor Cambodian families forcibly evicted from their land to make way for sugar-cane plantations that involved child labour and led to food shortages.

Fairfax Media this year revealed confidential audits that disclosed that ANZ’s Cambodian subsidiary, ANZ Royal Bank, had financed sugar plantations belonging to the Phnom Penh Sugar company owned by powerful Cambodian politician Ly Yong Phat.

Senator Phat’s company last month repaid its loan to ANZ Royal Bank but the affected farmers and villagers still want the bank to address their plight.

Dozens of farmers and villagers last week protested outside ANZ’s headquarters in Phnom Penh. The protest’s leaders met ANZ executives and asked for their help, arguing that the sugar plantations would not have gone ahead without the bank’s financial support.

ANZ executives have been told of families being forcibly removed from their homes, of food shortages, inadequate compensation, intimidation by military units and resettlement on unproductive land. A petition bearing the thumb prints of more than 300 affected villagers was presented to ANZ executives in the Cambodian capital this month.

But the bank, which last week announced an 8 per cent lift in its nine-month profit of $5.2 billion, is resisting pressure to assist the hundreds of families who claim they been adversely affected.

A spokesman for ANZ told Fairfax Media: “Relationships with the local community are a matter for PPS and it is not appropriate for ANZ to consider any compensation measures.

“ANZ is no longer a financier to PPS and it is no longer appropriate to have any discussions on the company’s business. Any issues would need to be raised with PPS directly.”

ANZ is a signatory to a global ethical banking code and has internal policies that require recipients of loans in developing countries ensure they have proper environmental, health and social management programs.

Protest leaders claim they were visited by Cambodian police over the weekend and threatened with violence if they continued their campaign against the bank.

The ANZ spokesman said he had no knowledge of the police involvement and that no one from the bank had asked police to intervene.

One villager visited by police over the weekend said they wanted to identify the “ringleaders” of the protest.

“One of the local authorities said, ‘If you go to Phnom Penh again be careful because you might be beaten to death’,” the villager said.

Another protester visited by police, Cheng Sopheap, said the families affected by the sugar plantations believed ANZ had a responsibility to help because it failed to ensure PPS acted in accordance with the bank’s ethical lending policies.

“Ly Yong Phat’s companies have bulldozed community houses and farm land, his company has destroyed rice fields. There was a forced eviction and children could not come to school,” Mr Sopheap said.

“The impact on the communities [is] because LYP’s companies got loans from ANZ bank.”

PPS company says it has properly compensated families, resettled them on new land and offered work in the plantations.

Senator Phat is one of Cambodia’s richest men and is part of the ruling political party.

The head of the Royal Group of companies, which ANZ partners in Cambodia, is tycoon Kith Meng.

Both Mr Meng and Senator Phat are close associates of Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/national/anz-says-no-to-evicted-cambodian-farmers-20140819-105sib.html#ixzz3B0raVrQi

ANZ sugar fallout broadens

(Friday, 24 January, Phnom Penh Post) - Shareholders will want answers from ANZ bank after it was revealed this week that the banking giant’s joint venture in Cambodia financed ruling party senator Ly Yong Phat’s controversial sugar plantation, the Responsible Investment Association Australia (RIAA) said yesterday.

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ANZ bankrolls Kampong Speu land grab

(Phnom Penh, 22 January 2014) – Two confidential social and environmental audits leaked to the Clean Sugar Campaign indicate that ANZ Royal Bank provided significant financing for a sugar plantation and refinery owned by the notorious Cambodian senator and tycoon Ly Yong Phat. ANZ confirmed its financing of the Phnom Penh Sugar Company in a meeting with campaign and community representatives on Sunday.

At the time ANZ gave the green light for the deal, Phnom Penh Sugar Co. Ltd and its sister company Kampong Speu Sugar Co. Ltd. were tied up in a very public conflict with hundreds of families in the Thpong and Oral districts of Kampong Speu province, where their sprawling 23,000 hectare sugar plantation was established by seizing homes, rice fields, orchards, grazing land and community forests relied upon by local farmers in at least 21 villages.

“It is hard to reconcile financing one of Cambodia’s most high-profile land grabs with the social and environmental commitments that ANZ made when it signed on to the Equator Principles,” said David Pred, Managing Associate of Inclusive Development International.

“Lending money to Ly Yong Phat is hardly befitting of a bank that has been repeatedly ranked as the most sustainable bank globally by the Dow Jones Sustainability Index.  This is someone who has been implicated in violent forced evictions and land grabbing in three provinces, illegal logging and deforestation, child labor, and the use of military, police and the courts to intimidate, arrest and imprison villagers who dared to protest,” Pred said.

“This case serious calls into question the credibility of ANZ’s due diligence process, he added.

Eang Vuthy, Executive Director of Equitable Cambodia, said: “The 2010 Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment that ANZ appears to have relied upon for its due diligence is a whitewash. Its claim that the living conditions of villagers who were resettled to small plots at the bottom of Pis mountain were either improved or remained the same could not be further from the truth – these families have suffered serious food insecurity since losing their land.”

“The assessment fails to mention the hundreds of other families whose farmland, forests and grazing land were forcibly taken by Phnom Penh Sugar and whose livelihoods were destroyed as a result.  The 2013 audit’s finding that there is no child labor on the plantations is plain false,” he added.

Phal Vannak, Thpong District representative of the Sugar Justice Network, called on ANZ to help the displaced families get their land back and compensate them for their loss of livelihoods.

“If a known drug dealer wants to borrow money from someone, they probably would not give that money to him because they wouldn’t want to be responsible for his crimes.  In this case, ANZ knowingly gave money to a criminal, so the bank also contributed to the crimes and must be responsible for the impacts,” he said.

Natalie Bugalski, Legal Associate of Inclusive Development International, said: “ANZ must have been aware of the misery its client was inflicting on communities because this case was reported on regularly in the press.  Yet, at the same time, ANZ was touting its environmental and social credentials to the public, projecting an angelic image that could have misled socially responsible investors.”

“ANZ’s shareholders will be left wondering what other dirty deals this bank has made,” she added.

The November 2010 Environmental and Socio-economic Site Assessment is available here 

Read more about Phnom Penh Sugar Co  

See also:

Bittersweet Harvest: A human rights impact assessment of the EU’s Everything But Arms initiative in Cambodia

 

EU Resolution Passed Against Sugar Abuses

Phnom Penh Post  (Tues, 21 January 2014, Kevin Poniah) The European Parliament has passed a resolution calling on the bloc’s executive body to urgently act on an EU preferential trade scheme found to have carried high risks of human rights violations in Cambodia through land evictions for industrial sugar development.

In a January 16 resolution, EU parliamentarians called on the European Commission “to act, as a matter of urgency, on the findings of the recent human rights impact assessment of the functioning of the EU’s Everything But Arms (EBA) initiative in Cambodia”.

Read more

 

Thai Sugar Firm Meets With Koh Kong Evictees

By  and  / Cambodia Daily – November 11, 2013

Koh Kong Sugar has offered to settle its yearslong dispute with Cambodian families who accuse its plantations of stealing their land, but the farmers remain wary of being able to secure a fair deal.

The firm, a subsidiary of Thailand’s Khon Kaen Sugar Industry Limited (KSL), made the offer during a meeting Saturday in Bangkok with community representatives and the NGOs helping them.

The 200 families say the loss of their farms to KSL’s two sugarcane plantations in Koh Kong province has driven them into poverty, and they want the land back. But Teng Kao, a representative of the families, said the firm preferred to pay them off.

Read more

Message to the Coca-Cola Company

We salute your pledge and now we await your actions to make your suppliers respect human rights 

(Phnom Penh, November 12, 2013) – We commend the Coca-Cola Company for its recent pledge of “zero tolerance for land grabbing” in its supply chain.  This is a bold and unprecedented commitment by one of the world’s biggest sugar buyers. It has the potential to be truly transformational in reforming a sector that is deeply implicated in land grabbing and environmental destruction.

Yet words are cheap and it is Coke’s actions on which it will be judged by consumers.  We will be watching one case in particular to see if Coke means what it says. In its statement on land grabbing, Coca-Cola disclosed that the Thai sugar giant, Mitr Phol, is one of its top three global suppliers.

Mitr Phol’s land concessions in Cambodia were acquired from local communities through violent force. Hundreds of families lost their farmland, crops and access to community forests as a result of the sugar concessions in the Samrong and Chongkal districts of Oddar Meanchey province. More than 250 families had their homes and possessions bulldozed or burned to the ground and their rice crop looted in Bos village in 2008 and 2009 to make way for Mitr Phol’s plantation. Nearly all these families were left landless and homeless, without any receiving compensation for their losses or rehabilitation of their livelihoods. Community leaders who led protests to demand the return of their land were beaten and jailed. As a result of these land grabs, affected people have been left to face deprivation.

Mitr Phol has refused multiple requests to engage with the Clean Sugar Campaign and representatives of the affected communities, including last week when a delegation from Koh Kong, Kampong Speu and Oddar Meanchey provinces went to Bangkok to seek meetings with the Thai companies behind the sugar rush in Cambodia.

The Clean Sugar Campaign calls upon Coke to use its enormous leverage over Mitr Phol to demand that the company provide full and just reparations for all harms and losses suffered, including returning illegally appropriated land, and immediately begin meaningful dialogue with representatives of the affected communities over the nature and means of reparations.

“Our community in Oddar Meanchey was so happy to hear about the Coca-Cola Company’s promise to not tolerate land grabs in its supply chain,” said Hoy Mai, who was evicted from her home and farmland in Bos village in 2009 and then thrown in jail for protesting while she was five months pregnant.  “We have suffered so much at the hands of Coke’s supplier, Mitr Phol.  We are waiting for Coca-Cola to help end our hardship,” she added.

“Coke’s statement is a watershed moment for the communities in Oddar Meanchey, who have been hopeless that Mitr Phol would ever repair the grave harms they have caused,” said Eang Vuthy, Executive Director of Equitable Cambodia, a Cambodian NGO that is helping the displaced communities in Oddar Meanchey seek justice.  “If Coke really means what it says, then we expect Mitr Phol will pick up the phone next time we call.”

“Coke must commence an immediate investigation into the forced evictions and land seizures perpetrated to clear the way for Mitr Phol’s Cambodian operation,” said David Pred, Managing Associate of Inclusive Development International.

“When the world learns the facts about this awful case, Coke consumers will expect that the soft drink giant ensures that justice is promptly delivered to the victims,” he added.