After many fruitless appeals to domestic authorities, more than 200 families evicted by two sugar companies in Koh Kong province’s Sre Ambel district, have filed a complaint with the US government.
With the support of the Center of Legal Education for Community (CLEC) and EarthRights International, the 207 families have asked the US’s National Contact Point office, which deals with international economic cooperation, to hold accountable American Sugar Refining, one of the major purchasers of sugar produced on the land that was once the villagers’, the NGOs officially announced yesterday.
Despite legal documents showing their land claims, 450 families were evicted in 2006, when the government granted economic land concessions to two companies owned in part by CPP senator Ly Yong Phat, the NGOs’ press release says.
“The forcibly evicted villagers involved in the land dispute lost everything, and their children were made to drop out of school to shepherd the cattle out of the sugar plantation,” CLEC’s coordinating officer Morn Vuthy said yesterday.
“We hope that the US government is able to ask for accountability from the US large sugar purchaser,” said Teng Kao, one of the villagers who thumbprinted the complaint.
EarthRights’ Bobbie Sta. Maria said that the complaint had been in the works for a long time and that ASR had not responded to several previous letters from CLEC, the last of which was sent in June.
Wishing not to interfere with negotiations, Sta. Maria was unable to comment on future developments in the case.
Am Sam Ath, senior investigating officer for rights group Licado, said the villagers had sent their complaint abroad after receiving no response from the Cambodian government.
“We hope that the government will turn to solve the land dispute for them while they are seeking outside intervention,” he said.
Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said the concessions were lawful.
Neither ASR, nor Ly Yong Phat could be reached for comment.