Cambodian villagers challenge sugar giant in Thai court

Thai sugar giant Mitr Phol, accused of forced displacement, property destruction and land grabbing, is being sued by Cambodian villagers in a class action suit before the Thai courts. This is a David and Goliath battle that is also a first in the region and illustrates the creativity of the activists who support them.

“It is a victory for us, and it is a first in the region,” says Eang Vuthy, director of Equitable Cambodia, a Cambodian non-governmental organization.

The activist is savouring the moment a day after the first hearing in an exceptional trial on September 21 in Bangkok. For the first time in south-east Asia, a multinational company is being sued for its activity in a foreign country in a “class action” suit, a collective action of plaintiffs who have suffered the same damage.

The case pits Thai sugar giant Mitr Phol, fifth largest sugar producer in the world and a supplier of Coca Cola, against 711 Cambodian peasant families. This is a David and Goliath battle that began in 2008. The case is emblematic of the consequences of a certain development vision, where the Cambodian government granting vast land concessions has caused multiple human rights violations.

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