Human Rights Violations

The land concessions in the provinces of Koh Kong, Kampong Speu and Oddar Meanchey for the purposes of industrial sugar plantations have consistently involved forced evictions resulting in the violation of human rights.  IMG_7901UN Human Rights Commission Resolutions have affirmed that the practice of forced evictions constitutes “a gross violation of a range of human rights” (Resolutions 1993/77 and 2004/28).

More specifically, in the course of the land evictions in Koh Kong, Kampong Speu and Oddar Meanchey provinces, the state and private actors have breached the human rights of villagers to:

  1. adequate housing;
  2. food;
  3. freedom from child labour;
  4. education;
  5. security of person and to life;
  6. freedom of movement and choice of residence;
  7. privacy and security of the home and to property;
  8. health; and
  9. work.

Examples of breaches of these rights in the three provinces follow below:

Right to Adequate Housing

The right to adequate housing is an integral part of the right to an adequate standard of living (Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights).

Examples of Breaches

The forced expropriations of land have included a number of breaches of the right to adequate housing such as:

  • Forced relocation of residents of Pis village, Kampong Speu (that was totally destroyed) to small 40m x 50m plots of rocky land at the foot of a mountain, February 2010
  • No cash compensation or replacement land for 200 of the 214 families that lost their homes in O’Bat Moan village, Oddar Meanchey
  • Provision of replacement land that was one-tenth to one-third the area of prior land was provided to villagers evicted from Trapaing Veng, Ktum, and Tamant villages, Oddar Meanchey in 2010
  • Provision of housing at Oddar Meanchey and Kampong Speu resettlement sites without sufficient protection against pests or extreme weather and no sanitation or safe drinking water

Right to Food

The right to food stems from the “fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger” (Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and see Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966)).

Examples of Breaches

Drinking Water

  • Sugar mill and agricultural byproducts have contaminated drinking water sources in Kampong Speu and Koh Kong
  • Families at the Bos, Oddar Meanchey and Trapaing Prolet, Kampong Speu relocation sites collect rain water from shallow holes in the ground contaminated with frogs, insects and trash
  • Households at Bos relocation site, Kampong Speu collect water from a dam 4 km away
  • Families at Pis pay 0.75USD for a jug of water or 3.00USD for a large pot
  • Households at all resettlement sites reported reduced access to water

Food sources

  • Fishing resources and edible water plants such as morning glory and lily were lost when sugar company built dams and covered streams in Snoul, O’Ang Khum, Kork, and O’Pralov, Kampong Speu
  • Households prevented from harvesting rice crop and crops were later looted by the military and company guards in O’Bat Moan, Oddar Meanchey
  • The number of interviewed households that ate three meals per day dropped from twenty four to six in the Pis relocation sites, Kampong Speu

Freedom from Child Labour

States Parties recognize the right of the child to be protected from economic exploitation and from performing any work that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with the child’s education, or to be harmful to the child’s health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development.” (Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989), Article 32(1)) IMG_0328

Examples of Breaches

  • Child labor was widely reported on the sugar plantations in all areas.
  • 85 children under the age of 16 confirmed to be working on the Koh Kong sugar plantation.  The vast majority of these are under age 15, and 13 of the child laborers are 11 years old or younger.
  • In Kampong Speu girls and boys aged 12 to 17 work on the plantation.
  • In Kampong Speu residents from Pis village said that although the manager informed them that the company does not accept child workers due to the physical requirements of the job, children aged 12 to 13 regularly work cutting, tying, and hauling cane bundles to help their parents during the three-month harvesting season.

Right to Education

Each Member shall, taking into account the importance of education in eliminating child labour, take effective and time-bound measures to…(c) ensure access to free basic education, and, wherever possible and appropriate, vocational training, for all children removed from the worst forms of child labour” (Article 7(2) of ILO Convention 182 – Concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour (1999))

Examples of Breaches

  • Parents in resettlement areas such as Trapaing Prolet, Kampong Speu reported that children could not go to school because of the distance and dangerous routes
  • Families interviewed in Oddar Meanchey said they stopped sending their kids to school after Grade 4 because they cannot afford the costs after the evictions and loss of land
  • One parent at Bos, Oddar Meanchey reported that her children had to work because of the financial difficulties created by the land expropriation
  • Based on information gathered from 219 children in three villages in Koh Kong, there have been 86 children who had to quit school after the land concession (27 children in Chhouk village, 44 children in Chikhor village and 15 children in Trapeng Kendal village).

Right to Security of Person & Right to Life

The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health”. (International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966), Article 12(1))

Special protection should be accorded to mothers during a reasonable period before and after childbirth.” (The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Article 10(2))

Examples of Breaches


  • A community activist, Mr An In, who was involved in documenting and protesting land clearances was found murdered with three axe blows to the back of his head in Chi Kor village, Koh Kong, 15 December 2006


  • Police reportedly assaulted and injured five villagers that resisted eviction, beat villagers with rifle butts, injured two others in gun fire in Chi Kor Leu commune, Koh Kong, 19 September 2006
  • Three villagers and the village chief  were arrested, one villager beaten and left unconscious by police in Bos/O’Bat Moan village, Oddar Meanchey, October 2009

Mothers and children 

  • Pregnant women and approximately 70 children that had fled from Bos/O’Bat Moan village, Oddar Meanchey were forced out of Kork Thlork pagoda two days after the eviction and had nowhere to go, October 2009

Right to Freedom of Movement & Choice of Residence

“Everyone lawfully within the territory of a State shall, within that territory, have the right to liberty of movement and freedom to choose his residence.”

(The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966) Article 12(1)

Examples of Breaches

  • Community leaders are monitored by the authorities and do not feel like they can move around freely in Oddar Meanchey
  • Company guards and soldiers charged fees for trespassing livestock, using a road or to transport collected forest products in Oddar Meanchey, Koh Kong and Kampong Speu
  • Company security prevent villagers from crossing company land to access the forest. In addition, those interviewed reported difficulties with accessing non-timber forest products in the community forest, as “forest protectors” designated by the community to prevent any illegal logging confiscated any tools used to collect non-timber forest products (O’Bat Moan village, Oddar Meanchey).
  • Villagers taking active part in organizing the community reported that they felt authorities were monitoring their movement on a daily basis (O’Bat Moan village, Oddar Meanchey).

Right to Privacy and Security of Home & to Property

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his honor and reputation.” (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966), Article 17)

No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.” (Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), Article 17(2))

Examples of Breaches

Loss of homes

  • Police destroyed houses by bulldozer in Chi Kor Leu commune, Sre Ambel district, Koh Kong province, 19 May 2006
  • Approximately 150 police, military police, hired demolition workers and troops bulldozed and burnt around 100 homes to the ground in Bos/O’Bat Moan village, Oddar Meanchey and villagers lost all possessions, 9 October 2009
  • Approximately thirty armed soldiers instructed residents to leave their land/homes in Pis village, Kampong Speu, February 2010
  • Homes destroyed with bulldozers in Pis village, February 2010

Loss of property

  • Households in all research areas lost rice, plantation/orchard, grazing and forest land, rice, fruit and vegetable crops and common resources that sustained their livelihoods such as wild cow, fish, rabbits, snakes, bamboo, honey, firewood and plants that could be collected from the forest
  • Livestock injured and approximately 60 cows and buffalos killed by guards of sugar companies that took the land in Koh Kong and Kampong Speu
  • Ongoing extortion from company guards and soldiers in Trapaing Prolet, Oddar Meanchey, Koh Kong, Kampong Speu and fees charged for trespassing livestock, using a road or to transport collected forest products.

Right to Health

The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.” (International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966), Article 12(1))

Examples of Breaches

  • Villagers contracted ‘strange diseases’ when they drank water from the stream contaminated by the sugar company’s toxic waste in Koh Kong, 2009
  • Majority of affected households surveyed reported poorer health conditions due to lack of adequate food and/or reduced household income following the evictions, and stomach-related ailments such as diarrhoea due to inadequate water supply, Pis relocation site, Koh Kong, Kampong Speu and Oddar Meanchey
  • Sixty-four percent of households in Trapaing Prolet, Kampong Speu and 86 percent of households in Pis, Kampong Speu reported increased difficulty with paying for health care costs since the evictions.
  • Resettled families in Oddar Meanchey and Kampong Speu
  • Villagers in Oddar Meanchey and Kampong Speu reported losing access to traditional medicines as a result of reduced access to forests

Right to Work

Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment”. (Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), Article 23)

…In no case may a people be deprived of its own means of subsistence”. (International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966), Article 1(2))

Examples of Breaches

  • Evicted households relocated to Pis, Kampong Speu received a 2 ha plot of land that was difficult to farm because of the rocky, sandy soil, too small to produce food a family, that often lacked access to water and that did not support crops that families grew pre-eviction such as rice
  • Villagers that were surveyed reported a lack of employment as the relocation sites were in remote areas
  • Villagers sometimes have no choice but to work on the sugar plantations where the work is only available in certain seasons and working conditions involve breaches of labour standards in relation to occupational safety and health (no instructions given in relation to spraying fertilisers or herbicides, no protective gear, physical reactions to the fertiliser including vomiting blood at Koh Kong), minimum living wages, overtime work and working hours
  • Villagers in Koh Kong could no longer rely on agricultural and livestock for income and had no choice but to become company employees, despite the company’s stipulation that anyone who wanted to become employees must revoke their claim to land ownership in dispute with the company and a survey found 66 percent of all households in Chhouk village, Chikhor village and Trapeng Kendal village, Koh Kong work as employees in sugarcane plantations.
  • Women workers are paid less than men on the plantations, Kampong Speu