Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - HAGL makes deal with villagers

HAGL makes deal with villagers

A man operates machinery on a HAGL land concession in Ratanakkiri province in 2013.
A man operates machinery on a HAGL land concession in Ratanakkiri province in 2013. GLOBAL WITNESS

HAGL makes deal with villagers

A "major breakthrough" has been reached in discussions between Vietnamese rubber giant Hoang Anh Gia Lai and 11 indigenous communities in Ratanakkiri province that have lost land and resources to the company’s plantations.

During a three-day meeting with community representatives, NGOs and its own subsidiaries, the firm, commonly referred to as HAGL, reiterated its pledge “not to carry out any further clearance or development” in these areas before making a slew of additional commitments to the affected villages, according to a joint statement issued by the participants on Saturday.

The two sides have been embroiled in a years-long dispute over economic land concessions (ELCs) run by subsidiaries of HAGL, which residents claim have encroached on land that they legally own and depend on for their livelihoods.

Among the allegations, HAGL is accused of widespread deforestation outside of its concession boundaries, polluting streams with chemicals used in its plantations and even sexual abuse.

Commitments made in last week’s talks included repairing and maintaining roads and bridges that have been damaged by its operations, and only using chemical products that comply with environmental regulations.

HAGL also agreed to organise joint visits to each of the 11 affected villages with local authorities, NGOs and other relevant stakeholders to determine whether it has encroached on community land. If violations are found, HAGL will “offer compensation” or “return the land to the community”, the statement adds.

The pledges follow a landmark agreement last week with three other indigenous communities – Ket, Nay and Kachout villages – which lie within HAGL ELCs but had not yet been directly affected by encroachment.

The company apologised to all 14 communities for the impacts of its operations, and offered representatives of each village a 400-kilogram cow and $500 “as an offering for their spirits”, the statement says.

It also agreed to restore affected water sources and to “adopt an operational grievance mechanism in relation to their agribusiness operations in Cambodia”.

Sal Hleuy, 60, a representative of Kachout village, said he was “happy” with the outcome of the talks but “would like to see all of the promises on paper and their actions afterwards”.

Representatives of HAGL could not be reached yesterday.

Last year, the firm said it was looking to expand its agricultural operations in the Kingdom. In 2013, the group came under fire when NGO Global Witness published a damning report on Vietnamese rubber concessionaires in Cambodia, which alleged that HAGL held land through its subsidiaries totalling about 47,000 hectares – almost five times the legal limit.

Eang Vuthy, executive director of Equitable Cambodia, said last week’s negotiations marked a “positive step forward” for the dispute’s resolution.

“This is a good result and we hope that the company will follow [through on] their commitments, continue to engage and make further progress.”

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY TAING VIDA

MOST VIEWED

  • Hong Kong firm done buying Coke Cambodia

    Swire Coca-Cola Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hong Kong-listed Swire Pacific Ltd, on November 25 announced that it had completed the acquisition of The Coca-Cola Co’s bottling business in Cambodia, as part of its ambitions to expand into the Southeast Asian market. Swire Coca-Cola affirmed

  • Cambodia's Bokator now officially in World Heritage List

    UNESCO has officially inscribed Cambodia’s “Kun Lbokator”, commonly known as Bokator, on the World Heritage List, according to Minister of Culture and Fine Arts Phoeurng Sackona in her brief report to Prime Minister Hun Sen on the night of November 29. Her report, which was

  • NagaWorld union leader arrested at airport after Australia trip

    Chhim Sithar, head of the Labour Rights Supported Union of Khmer Employees at NagaWorld integrated casino resort, was arrested on November 26 at Phnom Penh International Airport and placed in pre-trial detention after returning from a 12-day trip to Australia. Phnom Penh Municipal Court Investigating Judge

  • Sub-Decree approves $30M for mine clearance

    The Cambodian government established the ‘Mine-Free Cambodia 2025 Foundation’, and released an initial budget of $30 million. Based on the progress of the foundation in 2023, 2024 and 2025, more funds will be added from the national budget and other sources. In a sub-decree signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen

  • Two senior GDP officials defect to CPP

    Two senior officials of the Grassroots Democratic Party (GDP) have asked to join the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), after apparently failing to forge a political alliance in the run-up to the 2023 general election. Yang Saing Koma, chairman of the GDP board, and Lek Sothear,

  • 11th Chaktomuk Short Film Festival draws to close

    Cambodia's 11th Chaktomuk Short Film Festival wrapped up successfully on November 28 after a four-day run, with the film “Voice of the Night” awarded top prize for 2022. Sum Sithen, the organiser of the short film festival, told The Post that the number of attendees to the