Land Evictees Left Waiting as EU Plan Stalls

More than a year after a comprehensive plan was crafted to audit the claims of thousands of families that lost their land to Cambodian sugar companies, the government has still failed to sign off on the proposal, the E.U. confirmed on Friday.

Reacting to bad publicity caused by low tariffs for Cambodian “blood sugar,” or crops sourced from companies accused of human rights abuses, the E.U. set up an inter-ministerial working group in 2014 headed by the Commerce Ministry to develop a comprehensive plan for evictees across four provinces.

The E.U. confirmed in July 2015 that the working group had finalized the plan’s first phase, which would assess villagers’ claims, and was discussing a second phase that would establish a process for compensation.

More than a year later, “the proposal is currently under consideration by the government,” George Edgar, the E.U.’s ambassador to Cambodia, said in an email on

“The E.U. continues to urge the Royal Government of Cambodia to effectively address the issue of land disputes arising from sugarcane…economic land concessions (ELCs), stressing that commitments must be followed up on in a speedy manner and that tangible and concrete progress in the resolution of conflicts must be demonstrated,” he said.

Mr. Edgar did not respond to further requests for details of the proposed assessment. Commerce Minister officials did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Eang Vuthy, executive director of Equitable Cambodia, an NGO that has advocated on behalf of many evictees, said he believed the plan was awaiting final approval from Prime Minister Hun Sen.

“But this is just the first step,” he said on Friday. “All we can do now is assist the process.”

Without a formal mechanism in place for redress, plantations such as that of CPP Senator Ly Yong Phat’s Phnom Penh Sugar Company have made compensation deals with some groups of families, while portraying those with unresolved claims as opportunists.

On Thursday, more than 100 villagers rallied outside a commune office in Kompong Speu province, demanding to speak to three village “representatives” who told a television station owned by Mr. Yong Phat that there were no outstanding claims.

Many families simply want their land back, Mr. Vuthy said on
Thursday—something companies, which borrow their land from the government, refused to provide.

“People want to get land,” he said. “They are farmers, and the land is their life.”

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