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Meeting on bitter sugar issues

An ad hoc committee comprised of representatives from the European Union, the Ministry of Commerce, provincial administrations and the sugar industry met again yesterday at the ministry’s headquarters to continue its discussion of issues faced by those displaced by sugar plantations.

The committee touched upon topics such as discrepancies between the EU’s tally of affected families and the government’s, as well as whether a third party will be needed to assess sugar companies’ procedures for compensating affected families, ministry spokesman Ratha Ken said.

Though no final decisions were made, Ken added, the details of the meeting will remain under wraps until further talks are held.

“At the moment we need to cross-check more … between the government and the EU,” Ratha said. “We agreed to keep this confidential at the moment, because we need to further the discussion soon.”

EU Ambassador Jean-François Cautain did not respond to requests for comment yesterday, while fellow attendees the governor and deputy governor of Koh Kong province declined to comment on the meeting.

Cambodian sugar exports to Europe now receive favourable treatment under the EU’s “Everything But Arms” agreement. However, products can be barred from the agreement if they are found to be directly linked to human rights abuses, and in January, members of the European Parliament reiterated calls for an investigation of reported abuses caused by Cambodian sugar plantations.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY MAY TITTHARA

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