Mong Reththy Group has suspended a $115 million sugar plantation project that has been three years in the works, CPP Senator Mong Reththy said yesterday. According to Mr Reththy, the suspension is due to “internal” issues facing the French partner in the project, Groupe Sucres & Denrees, more commonly known as Sucden.
“It’s suspended because of internal affairs,” said Mr Reththy. “On my side, I don’t have any problems, as the government and I welcome this investment.”
Mr Reththy would not elaborate on the reasons for the suspension of the planned 10,000-hectare sugar plantation in Stung Treng province’s Siem Pang district. “They were in communication with me for three years already,” said Mr Reththy. “I’m very regretful about this project…. If it went ahead, it would create jobs and increase sugar exports.”
Alexandra Herbel, general manager at the French Cambodian Chamber of Commerce, said she had heard of the suspension but did not know the reasons behind it. Representatives of Sucden could not be reached for comment.
Human rights workers said yesterday that chronic land disputes throughout Cambodia remain a barrier for European companies that might otherwise wish to invest here.
“Our country has yet to enforce the law properly and always has conflicts concerning land,” said Chan Soveth, chief of the monitoring section at local rights group Adhoc.
“Particularly, for European investors, they require the respect of the law, because they want to benefit all: people, state and company.”
Sugar plantations have had a particularly thorny recent past. In Koh Kong province, for instance, villagers have claimed that sugar plantations owned by tycoon and CPP Senator Ly Yong Phat, which export to the EU duty-free under the Everything But Arms initiative, are situated on land seized from them.
Mr Reththy was insistent that land disputes were not the cause of his project’s suspension. He noted that his company makes every effort to keep the villagers who occupy land in his Economic Land Concessions in the area.
“The state has land for investors. We, the company, have capital to invest in creating jobs, not [creating] problems.”