The Campaign

Blood Sugar: life in the Cambodian sugar plantations
Photo: Thomas Christofoletti & Nicolas Axelrod

The CLEAN SUGAR CAMPAIGN is a coalition of affected communities and non governmental organizations working to:

  • Stop human rights abuses and environmental damage caused by the Cambodian sugar industry;
  • Bring about a just resolution for the individuals and communities who have been harmed by the industry; and
  • Ensure that the agricultural development and trade policies benefit smallholder farmers and local communities.


In Cambodia today, the government leases vast quantities of land to private investors to develop large-scale agro-industrial plantations. This leased land, however, is not empty, and is in fact in use by small communities who share the natural resource rich land in order to sustain their own lives. Because the land is not empty, it takes the use of security forces to free the area of its inhabitants in order to make room for the factories. Forcibly deprived of their productive base by local and foreign investors backed by state security forces, hundreds of thousands of Cambodian who pulled themselves out of poverty are once again struggling to survive.

The sugar industry is one of the worst offenders in Cambodia’s land grabbing epidemic. Motivated by the European Union’s “Everything But Arms” (EBA) preferential trade scheme for least developed countries, Thai sugar companies and a well-connected Cambodian tycoon have developed industrial plantations in Cambodia to produce raw sugar for export to Europe. The EBA initiative provides duty-free access to the European market and a guaranteed minimum price for sugar that is on average three times higher than world market prices. While the EBA scheme is intended to benefit the poor through job creation from export-led growth, the case of Cambodia’s rapidly expanding sugar industry tells a different story.

Land grabbing resulting from the development of the sugar industry is routinely accompanied not only by violently forced evictions, but a slew of other human rights violations. The provinces of Koh Kong, Kampong Speu, OddarMeanchey, and Preah Vihear host the majority of these atrocities.

Bos Eviction

Concessionaires disregard the entire gamut of social and environmental safeguards in the Cambodian regulatory framework, as well as dismiss their responsibility under international law to respect human rights.