Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - HAGL called out at the UN

HAGL called out at the UN

Numbered logs sit inside a rubber concession belonging to a subsidiary company of HAGL in Ratanakkiri province
Numbered logs sit inside a rubber concession belonging to a subsidiary company of HAGL in Ratanakkiri province. GLOBAL WITNESS

HAGL called out at the UN

A DELEGATION of Cambodian NGOs to the United Nations last week used the stage to shame the World Bank’s financial arm for failing to adequately monitor investments in a Vietnamese rubber giant accused of illegal logging, forced evictions and sexual harassment.

Representing 17 indigenous communities in Ratanakkiri that filed a complaint against Hoang Anh Gia Lai (HAGL) in February, the Cambodian delegation requested immediate suspension of the foreign concessionaire’s activities.

“We want to see the World Bank to immediately intervene and, through communicating with the affected community, ensure the indigenous people will be given a resolution regarding their land,” said Hok Menghoin, one of the delegates.

Speaking at the 13th Session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Peoples in New York last week, the delegation blamed the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) for a lack of due diligence after acquiring a 5.5 per cent holding in investment fund VEIL, which invests in HAGL via intermediary Dragon Capital Group.

Last year, Global Witness reported that HAGL held at least 47,000 hectares of economic land concessions – almost five times the legal limit. The IFC’s internal watchdog, the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman, launched an investigation into the firm following villagers’ land-grabbing complaints.

Yesterday, representatives from IFC in Cambodia said the ombudsman acts as an independent accountability measure, and denied that they had allocated funding specifically to HAGL.

Rights groups working with the investigation said the dispute is just one of many involving indigenous people being forced off their land.

“They are always under attack because they are living on natural resources that companies want and will pay for, and the government will not enforce the peoples’ rights,” Eang Vuthy, executive director of Equitable Cambodia, said.

But the delegation hoped it had at least raised the issue with a more receptive audience.

“Our government will not listen to us, the companies will not listen to us, but we think they might listen to the UN,” Vichet Mong, director of Indigenous Peoples Health Action, said.

Representatives from HAGL did not return requests for comment.

MOST VIEWED

  • Phnom Penh authorities ban march for Human Rights Day

    Phnom Penh authorities have banned a planned march as local NGOs and workers’ unions gear up to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on Monday, with a youth group leader saying they would march nonetheless. The UN

  • Government deports 235 Chinese scammers

    THE Immigration Department of the Ministry of Interior on Thursday deported 235 Chinese nationals, 35 of whom were female, via the Phnom Penh International Airport for their part in a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) online money extortion scam. The deportees were arrested on November 26 over the

  • Phnom Penh’s Jet’s Container Night Market shuts down

    The famous Jet’s Container Night Market in central Phnom Penh has shut down due to the high cost of the land rental, company representatives claim. Jet’s Container Night Market is the largest such market in Phnom Penh. It operated for just over two

  • Hun Sen rejects ‘rift’ rumours spread by ‘stupid gangsters’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday denied a “rift” among top leaders of the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), and rejected claims that Senate president Say Chhum and Interior Minister Sar Kheng were set to be removed from their positions as rumours spread by “gangsters”.