Sugar corporations push Cambodian farmers off land

The corporate practice in Cambodia of obtaining tens of thousands of acres from the government as economic development concessions for large sugar plantations, while paying modest compensation to farmers pushed off the land, places a harsh light on international trade pacts that are meant to help the world’s poorest countries.
The culprits are the Europeans, who buy sugar from Phnom Penh Sugar. “If Europe continues buying sugar from the company, then we will continue suffering,” Farmer Yim Lon said.

Trade pacts  foster exports can have the unintended effect of encouraging land grabs by wealthy, politically connected families.

Nearly all of Cambodia’s sugar exports go to the European Union under the Everything But Arms program, which eliminates import duties for the sugar. The European Union also sets high minimum prices for imported sugar, well above world levels. Western activists have tried in recent months to organize consumer boycotts against companies that have bought Cambodian sugar, notably Tate & Lyle Sugars, which is owned by American Sugar Refining of West Palm Beach, Fla.

The displaced say they do not have access to the treated water, but must rely on newly dug wells at the edge of the valley where they moved their houses. Well water is often less clean than the stream that used to flow near their homes and leaves what they say is a mysterious white residue when boiled.

Local residents say that they had been threatened with arrest if they did not move off land granted to Phnom Penh Sugar by the central government.

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