Asia’s largest sugar producer withdraws from three Cambodia plantations

Thailand’s Mitr Phol Sugar Corporation, has withdrawn from plantations in Oddar Meanchey province following years of criticism over alleged illegalities and human rights abuses at the concessions, development watchdog Equitable Cambodia has reported.

The three Mitr Phol concessions in Oddar Meanchey’s Samroang and Chongkal districts, totalling nearly 20,000 hectares, were visited by representatives of the Coca-Cola Company last year as part of its supply-chain audit after it committed to a “zero tolerance” approach to land grabbing in 2013.

Mitr Phol, one of three major suppliers to Coca-Cola, owns stakes in three sugar firms in Cambodia: Angkor Sugar, Tonle Sugar Cane, and Cane and Sugar Valley.

Equitable Cambodia reported that Mitr Phol had conducted land grabs with more than 250 families forcibly evicted from their homes in 2008 and 2009.

A report released by ActionAid and Oxfam also documented forced evictions, loss of habitat and access to water; an overall deterioration of income; increased migration to Thailand; and the destruction of areas of archaeological significance.

Awarded the concessions in 2008, Mitr Phol pledged to invest millions of dollars to develop the sites and said the projects would create approximately 5,000 jobs for local people.

While over 3,000 hectares were cleared, only 219 had sugar planted on them, the Phonm Penh Post reported.

A sugar processing plant was never built, with cleared timber was instead sold to a processing plant in Angkor Sugar concession land. Once processed, the timber was then exported to Thailand.

Mitr Phol reportedly pulled out of the concessions in April this year, but the land has not yet been returned.

Equitable Cambodia and rights group Licadho have also claimed that labour rights violations, including child labour, took place on the ELCs.

Villagers’ complaints prompted the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand to launch an investigation in 2010.