Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Mitr Phol evictees eye return to former land

Mitr Phol evictees eye return to former land

People watch a community building burn next to a sugar plantation belonging to Thailand’s Mitr Phol Sugar Corporation in Oddar Meanchey after authorities set it ablaze during a 2009 eviction. Photo supplied
People watch a community building burn next to a sugar plantation belonging to Thailand’s Mitr Phol Sugar Corporation in Oddar Meanchey after authorities set it ablaze during a 2009 eviction. Photo supplied

Mitr Phol evictees eye return to former land

Hundreds of displaced Oddar Meanchey farmers will return to their land within a fortnight, with or without authorisation, community leader Hoy Mai said yesterday.

Thousands of people were violently evicted from their homes and farmland when the government granted economic land concessions (ELC) totalling 20,000 hectares to Thai sugar giant Mitr Phol in 2008. When Mitr Phol, amid ongoing controversy, vacated the site in March of last year, it handed the land not to its previous occupants, but the state.

Hoy Mai said yesterday that the community lodged a petition asking for their land back in February, which was then passed on to Provincial Governor Sor Thavy. Today, Mai and 200 others plan to march to Thavy’s office to request a response.

“Whether the governor allows us back or not, we will still go to our land,” Mai said. “We are scared, but we have to struggle. We experienced being evicted. So we are not afraid.”

Thavy and other provincial officials could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Eang Vuthy, executive director of Equitable Cambodia, said yesterday it was time for the land to be returned to its previous owners.

“I think the government has to work with the people, because the land now has been given back to the government, so the government has the right to return the land to the people,” Vuthy said.

Than Nhoy, one of those evicted in 2008, said he has been planting crops on the former ELC since last year, despite requests from authorities not to.

“I’ll still do it, no matter what the authorities will do, because I don’t have any land besides this,” Nhoy said. “It’s my land. I inherited it from my mother, who had it since the Lon Nol era.”

While those displaced by Mitr Phol’s plantation continue to seek resolution, civil society groups – Equitable Cambodia among them – have been voicing concern that the company has been readmitted as a member of Bonsucro, a self-described “change platform” for the sugar industry.

Mitr Phol resigned from the organisation in 2012 following a 2011 complaint over its behaviour in Oddar Meanchey. Their resignation voided the complaint against them, Bonsucro chief executive Simon Usher explained yesterday.

“We’ve been arguing that Mitr Phol has to address the problem or their membership application should have been denied,” Vuthy said.

Usher said yesterday that the organisation itself has no capacity to refuse an applicant membership, but that anyone can challenge an application in the first 30 days after it has been lodged.

“Part of the challenge we’re having here is that we didn’t reach out to and alert the people who might want to challenge it,” Usher said, adding that Bonsucro was making efforts to bring about a positive resolution to the dispute, as a result of which he said, Mitr Phol are soon to announce “additional activity” designed to redress the situation.

A previous version of this article used the name of Oddar Meanchey's previous provincial governor, Brach Chan. The current governor is Sor Thavy. The Post apologises for any confusion caused.

MOST VIEWED

  • Second Hungary business forum set for H2

    Cambodia has asked Hungary to provide GSP- (Generalised System of Preferences) Plus facilities for when the Kingdom sheds its least-developed country (LDC) label, as the two countries prepare to hold a second business forum in the second half (H2) of this year to expand trade

  • Thai boxers to join SEA Games’ Kun Khmer event

    The Cambodian SEA Games Organising Committee (CAMSOC) – together with the Kun Khmer International Federation (KKIF) and Khmer Boxing Federation – have achieved a “great success” by including Kun Khmer in the upcoming biennial multi-sports event on its home soil for the first time, said a senior

  • Bullets to bracelets: Siem Reap man makes waste from war wearable

    Jewellery is often made from valuable gemstones like emeralds or diamonds and precious metals like gold or silver, or valueless things like animal horns. But a man in Siem Reap has approached the manufacture of delicate pieces from a different angle. His unique form of

  • 61% of 2022 imports came from just 3 markets

    The three largest exporters to Cambodia – mainland China, Vietnam and Thailand – accounted for 60.94 per cent of the Kingdom’s total merchandise imports last year, at $18.245 billion, which was up 11.99 per cent over 2021, according to the General Department of Customs and Excise. Cambodia’s total imports

  • CPP sets out five primary strategic goals for 2023-28

    The Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) on January 29 concluded its two-day extraordinary congress, setting the party’s priority goals for 2023-2028. The ruling party’s congress was attended by more than 3,000 members from across the Kingdom, including the members of the permanent and central committees,

  • Nearly 50 states join Kun Khmer Federation, all set for training

    In a little over a week, the Kun Khmer International Federation (KKIF) has accepted membership requests from 20 new nations, in addition to the exiting 29. The sudden influx of international recognition stems from the Kingdom’s successful introduction of Kun Khmer to the 32nd Souheast Asian (