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Sugar concerns raised

SAM Rainsy Party parliamentarian Mu Sochua travelled to Finland this week to urge senior officials in Helsinki to address human rights abuses in the Kingdom that are allegedly being abetted by a European Union trade programme.

Rights groups allege that large numbers of Cambodian villagers are being pushed off their land by sugar moguls including ruling party senator Ly Yong Phat, whose exports are granted preferential treatment under the EU’s Everything But Arms programme for developing countries.

Mu Sochua said she had raised the issue with Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja and Minister for International Development Heidi Hautala, who promised to examine it further.

In May, European Parliament member Cecilia Wikström of Sweden travelled to the Kingdom to examine complaints from villagers in Koh Kong and elsewhere who have been pushed off their land by sugar plantations.

“I am committed to push this issue until we get a response from the European Union,” Mu Sochua said yesterday.

Chheang Kimsrun, a representative of Ly Yong Phat’s Phnom Penh Sugar Company, dismissed Mu Sochua’s concerns yesterday and claimed that the firm is not targeting Europe. Last year, however, Ly Yong Phat’s Koh Kong Sugar Industry began exporting sugar to the UK under the EBA agreement in a joint venture with Thailand’s Khon Kaen Sugar.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CHHAY CHANNYDA

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