By Jeremy Ironside
Among the many arguments in favor of the European Union’s position in the May 29 letter to the editor “E.U. not insensitive to human rights abuse on land concessions” (page 26), what was not mentioned was that many of these concessions appear to be impoverishing the very vulnerable rural people that the E.U. is trying to assist through its development support.
This is in fact opposite to the claims made by the ambassador that trade preference is creating jobs and reducing poverty.
I was recently in Ormlaing commune, Kompong Speu province, the site of a large-scale sugar concession. Apart from the physical abuse and villagers losing their rice paddy land to this concession, the company had also simply bulldozed the community’s community forest and a watershed area, which the Ministry of Environment had granted the community as a community protected area.
It is hard to understand why companies like this should be given trade preference from the E.U.
Given that the E.U. ambassador is not insensitive to the community members’ plight, would he like to endorse a community petition recently submitted to the Thailand Human Rights Commission highlighting the abuses perpetrated in different parts of Cambodia by the Thai company Mitr Phol Sugar Corporation? Hopefully the Thai Human Rights Commission will be able to fully expose the activities of these companies, instead of simply accepting them as the price for one-sided “development,” as the ambassador’s letter seems to do.
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