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Sugar industry monitor drops UK's Tate & Lyle amid Koh Kong charges

Sugar industry monitor drops UK's Tate & Lyle amid Koh Kong charges

An international sugar industry monitor has suspended the membership of a UK sugar company that faces pending litigation from 200 Koh Kong families for their alleged involvement in illegal land grabs.

Better Sugar Cane Initiative Ltd. [Bonsucro], which holds its members to a set of principles including maintaining human rights and environmental standards, suspended the Tate & Lyle sugar company on July 8, said Eang Vuthy, director of rights group Equitable Cambodia.

“It’s going to affect the company very much, because … [Bonsucro] has a code of conduct for companies to follow,” Vuthy said yesterday. “If they suspend the company, it means the company did not operate by their own code of conduct.”

The suspension comes after Tate & Lyle failed to provide Bonsucro with an internal review of their finances or a third-party review of the practices of their local suppliers, said Natasha Schwarzbach, Bonscuro’s head of engagement.

Tate & Lyle’s contentious relationship with Koh Kong villagers dates back to 2006, when their sugarcane supplier, Thai-owned Khon Kaen Sugar, allegedly forced hundreds of villagers off their land after obtaining an economic land concession from the government.

Two years ago, Equitable Cambodia and the Community Legal Education Center (CLEC) filed a complaint with Bonsucro against the UK company for buying sugarcane from the Thai company.

The suspension will be lifted if Tate & Lyle provides Bonsucro with the documents it previously failed to provide, or comes to an equitable solution with aggrieved villagers, Schwarzbach said.

The suspension comes just three days after a mediation attempt between representatives of the company and the villagers fell apart in a meeting held in the UK.

Yeng Virak, executive director at the CLEC, who attended the meeting, said the villagers – represented pro bono by UK attorney Jones Day – will enter into litigation with Tate & Lyle at the British High Court of Justice.

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