Sugar Tycoon Is Taking Village Land: Rights Groups

Rights groups have expressed concern that CPP tycoon senator Ly Yong Phat’s sugar-processing company in Koh Kong province is continuing to encroach on villagers’ land despite an agreement last year not to do so.

In a letter to Ly Yong Phat dated Tuesday, Licadho, the Cambodian Center for Human Rights and the Community Legal Education Cen­ter said that his Koh Kong Sugar Industry Company had “blatantly violated” the agreement by clearing paddies and plantations legally owned by villagers in Sre Ambel district’s Chhikor Leu commune.

In the process, the statement alleged, “[v]illagers have been subjected to threats, harassment, and worse. Rather than decreasing pov­erty in the area, the company’s activities have increased pov­erty and unrest in Sre Ambel.”

Ly Yong Phat said last year that the project aimed to help develop the area and create jobs. Con­tacted Wednesday, he said he was too busy to comment on the rights groups’ allegations.

The processing facility is part of a 20,000-hectare sugarcane plantation being developed by two companies controlled by Ly Yong Phat.

Licadho President Kek Galabru claimed that “police and military police have come in uniforms with guns” to scare the villagers off their land and threaten them with arrest.

Koh Kong provincial Governor Yuth Phouthang said he plans to send a committee today to meet with the villagers and try to solve the problem.

But he added that NGOs had no right to ask for a halt in Ly Yong Phat’s clearing operations. No one will want to develop land in the province if they see NGOs causing trouble, he said, adding that the villagers don’t have land titles.

(Additional Reporting by Emily Lodish)


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