On Indigenous Peoples’ Day: Int’l groups demand pullout, accountability of Chinese company in Cambodia | IPWID 2018
(PCFS, IPMSDL joint press release for IDWIP 2018)
Two global movements supporting Indigenous Kuoy communities in Cambodia trooped to the embassies of China and Cambodia in Makati City, Philippines on Aug. 8, 2018, a day before the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples (IDWIP), to submit a petition calling for the pullout and accountability of Chinese state-owned enterprise Guangdong Hengfu Group Sugar Industry Co., Ltd.
The International Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self-Determination and Liberation (IPMSDL) and the People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty (PCFS), both based in the Philippines, launched the petition early this year to gather the support of the international community in urging the governments of China and Cambodia to act upon the issue. The petition is endorsed by around 350 organizations from different countries, some of which will also spearhead parallel actions in their respective countries on Aug. 9, 2018.
“We express our solidarity to the peasant and indigenous communities in Preah Vihear province, Cambodia who have been struggling for more than five years now to assert their rights over the disputed land. We hope that our global action in commemoration of the IDWIP would put timely pressure to both the governments of China and Cambodia to finally fulfill their mandate in protecting the welfare of the affected people especially the Indigenous Kuoys,” said Beverly Longid, global coordinator of IPMSDL.
According to reports, the Cambodia government granted Hengfu’s five subsidiaries the license over 36,000 hectares of land as economic concession in 2011. As of 2016, 16,000 hectares are already converted into sugarcane plantations. It is claimed to be among the world’s biggest sugar factories.
Ponlok Khmer, a Cambodian NGO and member organization of PCFS, is helping the communities in their struggle against the company.
Longid said the people of Preah Vihear are elevating their concern at the international level because of the lacking response they have earned through local engagements. Since Hengfu encroached the land, thousands of residents in Preah Vihear lost their livelihood and many were displaced. The company even bulldozed ancient structures and artifacts of the indigenous communities, she added.
“It is a shame that the Cambodian Government is denying the people their right to self-determination by opening up ancestral lands to foreign investments at the expense of not only the lives of the individual residents who have long depended on it, but also their collective identity as an Indigenous Peoples. Worse, China easily gets away with it knowing how influential it is to Cambodia economy and politics,” said Longid.
“Prior to our global day of action, the villagers have been actually in communication with different international bodies such as the United Nations for their intervention. They find that Cambodia’s political interests in its relations with China are more decisive when it comes to how land disputes involving Chinese investors are dealt with,” said Roy Anunciacon, PCFS global secretariat coordinator.
“While there are numerous laws and international covenants that provide measures on holding corporate violators accountable, it really takes political will for justice to take place. In Preah Vihear, the people are exercising it,” he added.
Anunciacion also expressed concern on the reported threats and harassment against community leaders in order to suppress the people’s resistance.
“The issue is more than a case of an abusive foreign investor, but of a development framework that only feeds corporate greed. People’s lives are always at stake here,” said Longid.
“We stand with the Preah Vihear people. Likewise, our formations demand to cancel the concession of Hengfu, pull it out of Cambodia, and hold it accountable for all its violations,” Anunciacion said.
The struggle against Hengfu’s landgrabbing in Cambodia is part of the of the global campaigns of IPMSDL and PCFS against land and resource grabs and the defense of ancestral lands. ###