Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - EU pressure effective?

EU pressure effective?

Sugar cane is unloaded at a factory in Koh Kong in 2010.
Sugar cane is unloaded at a factory in Koh Kong in 2010. Heng Chivoan

EU pressure effective?

In recent years, communities displaced by sugar plantations have attempted to reclaim their land by targeting the plantations’ investors and buyers overseas, but a study published last week in the peer-reviewed Journal of Civil Society suggests such efforts may disappoint.

Author Young Sokphea notes that after years of both peaceful and violent protest by community members being met with repressive measures by both the Cambodian government and involved companies, they took their struggle overseas.

With the assistance of NGOs, they began targeting companies and markets buying the plantations’ sugar through a range of means, from advocacy to an ongoing lawsuit in the British courts.

Sokphea found, however, that political patronage bestowed upon plantations protected them from many measures enacted by the government in response to international pressure. He also found that lobbying the European Union had limited effects, despite its status as Cambodia’s largest donor.

Eang Vuthy, executive director of Equitable Cambodia, has placed a lot of faith in lobbying the EU. Working with other NGOs and affected communities, he hoped to persuade the trading bloc to amend its Everything But Arms (EBA) agreement with Cambodia.

EBA allows Cambodia tariff- and quota-free access to the European market for all products, except weaponry. The NGOs wanted the EU to revoke Cambodia’s EBA status until human rights and land tenure issues were resolved.
But two years ago a compromise was arrived at, whereby the Cambodian government would submit to having EU-funded external auditors examine claims of abuse and dispossession.

However, Vuthy said that both he and displaced communities across the country were frustrated that the EU-funded auditors were yet to arrive. Terms of reference for the program were kicked around an inter-ministerial committee for one and a half years, before making it to the prime minister’s office six months ago, Vuthy said.

“We’ve engaged for so many years and now we’re stuck here,” Vuthy said. “We were convinced going through this will result in some kind of systemic solution and now it’s stuck, so how can we believe that?”

In an email yesterday, EU Ambassador George Edgar said that he “continue[s] to await a decision by the Government of Cambodia on the proposed audit” and directed enquires to the Ministry of Commerce.

Commerce Ministry spokeswoman Soeung Sophary put the delay down to a desire to consult widely on this “controversial issue”.

Any further information, she added, would have to be sought from the prime minister’s office, representatives of which were not reachable for comment.

MOST VIEWED

  • ‘Education’ a priority traffic-law penalty

    A top National Police official on June 21 neither rejected nor confirmed the authenticity of a leaked audio message, which has gone viral on social media, on a waiver of fines for a number of road traffic-related offences. General Him Yan, deputy National Police chief in

  • Pursat Ford assembly plant opens

    The Kingdom’s first Ford assembly plant was inaugurated on June 16 in Pursat province amid rising demand for brand-new vehicles among Cambodians. The facility is seen as a game changer for the domestic automobile industry, which could bring a wave of investors seeking to cash

  • Siem Reap’s $18M zoo said to educate public, help wildlife

    Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium Co Ltd has invested $18 million in a zoo in Siem Reap province, which will be opened in October to educate and promote animal conservation as well as attract national and international tourists. Currently, the Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium is building the

  • Volunteer scheme to foster ‘virtuous’ humanitarian spirit

    A senior education official said volunteer work contributes to solidarity and promotes a virtuous humanitarian spirit among the youth and communities. Serei Chumneas, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, made the comment during the opening of a training programme called “

  • $50B infrastructure plan en route

    The government’s upcoming $50 billion,10-year infrastructure master plan will provide tremendous investment opportunities for domestic and foreign entities, transport experts and economists say. Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol revealed the plan to Japanese ambassador to Cambodia Masahiro Mikami on June 15. At

  • Chinese firms unveil preliminary results on metro, monorail for capital

    Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol and representatives from China Road and Bridge Corp (CRBC) and its parent company, the state-owned China Communications Construction Co Ltd (CCCC), met on June 24 for talks on results of the firms’ preliminary study on a potential metro