Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - New twist in Cambodian sugar firm saga

New twist in Cambodian sugar firm saga

New twist in Cambodian sugar firm saga

120816_05

Sugar cane is bundled after being harvested last year. Photograph: Heng Chivoan/Phnom Penh Post

Taiwanese food supplier Ve Wong, one of two sugar company owners locked in a long-running battle with villagers in Koh Kong’s Sre Ambel district, has made an eyebrow-raising offer – to give the disputed land back.

The company’s offer, posted to the non-profit Business and Human Rights Resource Centre’s website, comes with one major caveat: proof that the disputed hectares – part of a large economic land concession area granted to the firm in 2006 – were acquired illegally.

“If there is any evidence proving [VE Wong subsidiaries] illegally acquired the land from residents, the companies are willing to return [the land] and compensate all relocation costs of all affected families,” the statement reads.

However, supporters of the villagers in their more than six-year battle with the sugar conglomerate were not convinced.

“Unfortunately, we have heard similar promises from KSL Group before, to no effect,” retorted the Clean Sugar Campaign Tuesday on the “Boycott Blood Sugar” website.

Rights groups involved in the struggle are quick to point out that the disputed economic land concessions violate the 10,000 hectare limit on such deals under the 2001 land law.

The adjacent concessions granted to Koh Kong Plantation Co and Koh Kong Sugar Industry Co total 9,400 and 9,700 hectares respectively, are for the same operation, they argue, and thus are effectively one ELC.

Based on official documents publicly released on the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries website, both companies occupy the same office space and were approved on the same day for the two concessions owned in a joint venture by KSL and Ve Wong.

Eang Vuthy of land rights group Equitable Cambodia said that a tangible solution would involve the companies negotiating with villagers.

“People have documents that prove ownership, but they have not even had a hearing yet,” Vuthy said.

The Post reported earlier this month that ruling-party Senator Ly Yong Phat had sold his 20 per cent share of the venture, although villagers still believe his influence is paramount.

“If Ly Yong Phat releases a statement to return the land, we will believe it,” Phal Vannak, a representative of affected families in Kampong Speu province, said.

Ve Wong did not respond to requests for comment.

To contact the reporter on this story: Rachel Will at [email protected]
With assistance from Sen David

MOST VIEWED

  • US imposes sanctions on Oknha Pheap and Kun Kim

    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation expressed strong dismay on Monday over the designation of Cambodian tycoon Oknha Try Pheap and General Kun Kim under the US’ Global Magnitsky Act. “It is very disturbing when the public figures of a country become the

  • Rights Day forum denied in Sihanoukville

    The Preah Sihanouk provincial administration last Saturday denied the request of land communities for a public location in the province to celebrate International Human Rights Day 2019 as the administration had already held forums to discuss land issues. However, the land community representatives said they would

  • Gov’t approves $9B worth of building projects in 2019

    The government has approved more than $9 billion this year for capital investment in the construction sector, a nearly 80 per cent increase on last year, with most of the growth coming from projects in Sihanoukville, according to Minister of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction Chea

  • PP residents urged to use public transport

    Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol has urged Phnom Penh residents to use the capital’s existing public transport services rather than private vehicles, as it is leading to increased traffic congestion. He also called for the city’s public bus system to

  • Kingdom calls on Japan to increase number of direct flights to Siem Reap, Phnom Penh

    Cambodia is requesting Japan to increase the number of direct flights from Japanese cities and provinces to Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, so as to contribute to increasing cooperation and tourist numbers between the two countries. During the opening ceremony of 3rd Japan Travel Fair

  • Sierra Leone potential new market for export of Cambodian milled rice

    Sierra Leone plans to import milled rice from Cambodia for domestic consumption. The request was made when the visiting Sierra Leone Ambassador to China Ernest Ndomahina met Cambodian Minister of Commerce Pan Sorasak on Wednesday at the ministry. Ndomahina said his country’s agricultural sector