Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Rubber fallout extends to IFC

Rubber fallout extends to IFC

Villagers from Lbaing II commune inspect an allegedly illegal logging site in a forest in Ratanakkiri’s Lumphat district
Villagers from Lbaing II commune inspect an allegedly illegal logging site in a forest in Ratanakkiri’s Lumphat district earlier this month. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Rubber fallout extends to IFC

Representatives of 17 indigenous communities announced yesterday they were filing a complaint against the International Financial Corporation (IFC) for investing in a Vietnamese rubber firm accused of illegal logging and land-grabbing in the villagers’ home province of Ratanakkiri.

The complaint, announced at a press conference in Phnom Penh that featured a female representative singing of the communities’ losses, details a litany of alleged abuses and legal violations by Hoang Anh Gia Lai (HAGL), which operates rubber plantations on economic land concessions in the Kingdom’s northeast.

Villagers from Andong Meas and O’Chum districts lodged the complaint with the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (CAO), the internal watchdog of the IFC, which itself is the private lending arm of the World Bank.

“This complaint provides hard evidence that IFC’s investment has ultimately been used to grab land and destroy critical natural resources,” said Natalie Bugalski, legal director at Inclusive Development International (IDI), one of several NGOs working with the affected families.

The IFC is accused of supporting HAGL’s actions by investing millions of dollars through an intermediary fund called Dragon Capital Group since 2002.

Dragon Capital – whose representatives could not be reached yesterday – holds a 5.5 per cent stake in HAGL.

Last year, HAGL came under fire when Global Witness, an NGO based in London, published a report titled Rubber Barons accusing it of illegally logging outside concession areas and being in possession of at least 47,000 hectares of economic land concessions – almost five times the legal limit.

Global Witness singled out IFC, Deutsche Bank and later Credit Suisse for their investments in HAGL, resulting in Deutsche Bank divesting.

Communities are requesting land seized by HAGL be returned, saying they “do not want cash compensation, because it cannot be inherited by the next generation”.

HAGL, which has previously said it is in possession of about 30,000 hectares of ELCs, did not comment yesterday.

Following the submission of the complaint, the CAO has 15 days to respond, IDI managing director David Pred said.

“Why is nearly half of IFC’s financial portfolio going into this black hole of financial markets when they really have no idea what their impacts are on the ground?” he asked.

Eang Vuthy, executive director of Equitable Cambodia, is hopeful the negotiation process will be fruitful.

“We hope that the CAO can help bring the company and its investors around the table to find a resolution that fully respects the rights of the affected indigenous communities and Cambodian law,” he said.

The IFC did not respond to requests for comment by press time.

MOST VIEWED

  • Tragedy as four lions devour teenager in Pakistan safari park

    In a horrifying incident at an animal park in the Pakistani city of Lahore, four lions killed a 17-year-old grass reaper. However, how Muhammad Bilal Hussain managed to get near the lions was yet to be ascertained. Safari officials said Hussain climbed a 3.7m high

  • Hun Sen asks Cambodians to believe in government

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday asked citizens and investors to trust that the government will overcome the challenges brought about by Covid-19 and the loss of the EU’s Everything But Arms (EBA) scheme. Speaking to reporters at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh,

  • Westerdam passenger ‘never had’ Covid-19

    The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the US citizen that allegedly tested positive in Malaysia after travelling on the Westerdam was never infected with Covid-19 in the first place. In an article published in the newspaper USA Today on Friday, CDC

  • Gloom hits Siem Reap tourism

    As the Kingdom’s overall tourism sector continued to grow last year, industry insiders in Siem Reap have expressed their deep concerns, citing a sharp drop in Chinese arrivals to the province beginning late last month. Cambodia earned $4.91 billion in international tourism revenue last year,

  • ‘Ghost staff’ found, $1.7M returned to state coffers

    The Ministry of Civil Service said more than seven billion riel ($1.7 million) in salaries for civil servants was returned to the state last year after it discovered that the books had been cooked to pay ‘ghost officials’. This is despite claims by the Ministry of

  • Woman wanted for killing own son

    Police in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district are on the lookout for a woman who allegedly hacked her son to death on Sunday in Stung Meanchey III commune. District police chief Meng Vimeandara identified the son as Chan Sokhom, 32. “The offender can’t escape forever.