Sugar plantations that benefit from the European Union’s Everything But Arms (EBA) scheme, which allows preferential access to the E.U.’s market, have further impoverished Cambodia’s poor, and an investigation needs to be launched, a member of the European Parliament (MEP) said on Friday.
Patrice Tirolien, MEP from France and a member of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, said the EBA has fueled land grabs by sugar plantation owners in Cambodia, and that he would press the European Commission, the 28-country bloc’s executive body, to launch an investigation into the local sugar industry.
“I will seek to meet with the [European Commission’s] trade commissioner [Karel] de Gucht…the E.U. has to react to EBA, because it is not benefiting the people the way it is intended to,” he said at a press conference in Phnom Penh.
“As a Member of the European Parliament, it is really hard to see that the E.U. policies that are supposed to help the poor and vulnerable are actually affecting them and not benefiting them,” Mr. Tirolien said.
On January 16, the European Parliament passed a resolution calling on the European Commission “to act, as matter of urgency, on the…functioning of the E.U.’s Everything But Arms initiative in Cambodia.”
A similar resolution was passed in 2012, the year Cambodia exported $13 million worth of sugar to European markets.
During his visit this week, Mr. Tirolien said he traveled to sugar plantations owned by Thai conglomerate Mitr Phol in Oddar Meanchey province and by CPP Senator Ly Yong Phat in Kompong Speu province.
“We went to Oddar Meanchey and Kompong Speu, where hundreds of people place their hopes with us,” he said, adding that he met with people who were arrested for fighting their eviction, including a woman who had to give birth to her child in prison.
“They were arrested just because they wanted to resist land grabbing,” Mr. Tirolien said.
In Kompong Speu province’s Oral and Thpong districts, where Ly Yong Phat and his wife hold three connected government-awarded land concessions totaling about 23,000 hectares that encroached on the land of about 1,500 families, Mr. Tirolien found that his visit was already expected and prepared for by the plantation.
“They let us see what they wanted us to see,” he said.
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