Silencing of a Laotian Son: The Life, Work and Enforced Disappearance of Sombath Somphone
By Ng Shui Meng
Silencing of a Laotian Son: The Life, Work and Enforced Disappearance of Sombath Somphone is a wife’s sensitive and thoughtful portrayal of a poor village boy’s life journey to improve the lives of rural communities in Laos, and his subsequent enforced disappearance on December 15th, 2012 in front of a police post in Vientiane.
The book describes how Sombath’s ground-breaking and community development work earned him widespread recognition as Laos’ leading development specialist. It also documents the Lao authority’s cynical denial of state involvement in Sombath’s disappearance and his wife Shui Meng’s tireless and agonizing struggle to rally international support to secure Sombath’s safe return.
For more information about the book, contact INEB - International Network of Engaged Buddhists
Crime, Power and Impunity in Forests: The World Rainforest Movement Bulletin 253, November / December 2020
The articles in this Bulletin are written by the following organizations and individuals; The Corner House, UK; women activists in Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone and Cameroon; a member of the Pastoral Land Commission (CPT) in Amapá, Brazil; six women and men activists from across Indonesia; Land Watch Thai, Thailand; Dr. Bernice Maxton-Lee; and members of the WRM international secretariat.
- Our Viewpoint: Naming the crimes (and criminals) for what they are
- Legal but corrupt
- Sexual Exploitation and Violence against Women at the Root of the Industrial Plantation Model Organized land theft for industrial tree plantations in Brazil: The case of AMCEL
- Indonesia: Legalizing crimes under the slogan of “creating jobs”
- Law, Crime and Deforestation in the Thai Countryside
- RSPO: outsourcing environmental regulation to oil palm businesses and industry
- RECOMMENDED African Peoples Tribunal against Industrial Plantation Companies
See all articles at: Boletin-253_ENG.pdf (wrm.org.uy)
Inclusive Development's report
Cambodia: Challenging Mitr Phol land grab and Bonsucro greenwashing
A decade-long struggle by displaced Cambodian farmers against Asia’s largest sugar company has led to a landmark court victory in the company’s home country of Thailand. This transboundary human rights litigation against Mitr Phol - a supplier of Nestle, Mars, PepsiCo and Coca-Cola - is the first of its kind in Southeast Asia. Meanwhile, a legal challenge by Inclusive Development International and our Cambodian partners to the so-called ‘sustainability initiative’ Bonsucro is holding the sugar industry accountable for its shameful greenwashing of Mitr Phol’s human rights abuses.
The report "Reckless Endangerment Assessing Responsibility for the Xe Pian-Xe Namnoy Dam Collapse". This report is dedicated to those who perished in the Xe PianXe Namnoy tragedy, their loved ones, and to the many others who have suffered adverse impacts due to this project, largely without recognition or redress.
Read the full report here:
Dead in the Water : Global Lessons from the World Bank's Model Hydropower Project in Laos
For decades, large dam projects have been undertaken by both nations and international agencies with the aim of doing good: preventing floods, bringing electricity to rural populations, producing revenues for poor countries, and more. But time after time, the social, economic, and environmental costs have outweighed the benefits of the dams, sometimes to a disastrous degree. In this volume, a diverse group of experts-involved for years with the Nam Theun 2 dam in Laos-issue an urgent call for critical reassessment of the approach to, and rationale for, these kinds of large infrastructure projects in developing countries.
In the 2000s, as the World Bank was reeling from revelations of past hydropower failures, it nonetheless promoted the enormous Nam Theun 2 project. NT2, the Bank believed, offered a new, wiser model of dam development that would alleviate poverty, protect the environment, engage locally affected people in a transparent fashion, and stimulate political transformation. This was a tall order. For the first time, this book shows in detail why, despite assertions of success from the World Bank and other agencies involved in the project, the dam's true story has been one of substantial loss for affected villagers and the regional environment. Nam Theun 2 is an important case study that illustrates much broader problems of global development policy.
Article on Land Grabbing and Cross-border Investment: Case of Cambodian Migrant Workers in Thailand from a Gender-lens
September 17, 2018 - Heinrich Boll Stiftung Southeast Asia
Land grabbing in Southeast Asia continues to be an issue of concern, particularly from a livelihood and an environmental perspective. The population in the region largely live in rural areas, the majority of whom make their living by depending on the natural resources that surround them, such as land and water. This article is based on a research conducted in a local community in Cambodia and discusses key findings by using a gender lens to highlight changes which have occurred on various levels in the community.17 September 2018 by Premrudee Daoroung
Read the full article here:
The National Human Rights Commission of Thailand (NHRCT) Reports
The report on an investigation on KSL (Khon Kaen Sugar Ltd.) company in Koh Kong Province, Cambodia
รายงานผลการตรวจสอบสิทธิชุมชนกัมพูชา กรณีการดำเนินการของ บ.น้ำตาลขอนแก่น โดย คณะกรรมการสิทธิมนุษยชนแห่งชาติ (ฉบับย่อ)
รายงานผลการตรวจสอบสิทธิชุมชนกัมพูชา กรณีการดำเนินการของบริษัทน้ำตาลมิตรผล โดยคณะกรรมการสิทธิมนุษยชนแห่งชาติ
12 ตุลาคม 2558 - คณะกรรมการสิทธิมนุษยชนแห่งชาติเผยแพร่รายงานผลการพิจารณาคำร้องที่ขอให้เสนอแนะนโยบายหรือข้อเสนอในการปรับปรุงกฎหมายในกรณีการดำเนินการของบริษัท น้ำตาลมิตรผล จำกัด ส่งผลกระทบต่อประชาชนและสิทธิชุมชนกัมพูชาในพื้นที่อำเภอสำโรง (Samrong) และอำเภอจงกัล (Chongkal) ในจังหวัดโอดอร์ เมียนเจย (Oddor Meanchey) ในภาคตะวันออกเฉียงเหนือของกัมพูชา
The report on Mitr Phol Sugar Company Limited
(Unofficial Translated By Towards Ecological Recovery and Regional Alliance [TERRA])
Community Rights: Mitr Phol Sugar Company Limited negative impacts on people living in Samrong District and Chongkal District, Oddar Meanchey Province, Northeastern Cambodia
National Human Rights Commission
Date: 12 October 2015
Investigation Report No: 1003/2015
Re: Community Rights: Mitr Phol Sugar Company Limited negative impacts on people living in Samrong District and Chongkal District, Oddar Meanchey Province, Northeastern Cambodia
Complainants Foundation for Ecological Recovery, Equitable Cambodia and Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO)
Mitr Phol Sugar Company Limited
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) received a complaint from Foundation for Ecological Recovery, Equitable Cambodia and LICADHO (Complaint No. 259/2013) on Mitr Phol Sugar Company Limited, a Thai national company who had received land concession under the Economic Land Concession (ELCs) to operate a sugar industrial plant in Samrong District and Chongkal District of Oddar Meanchey Province in Northeastern Cambodia. The land concession has been granted to three subsidiary company, which have a relationship to the Mitr Phol Sugar Company Limited to operate in the said area, in which the company has illegally occupied the land of local people by destroying local people’s houses, killed their livestocks, torched villages, destroyed crops, resulting in the series of threaten and arrest villagers. The operation had threatened food security and extreme poverty to affected Cambodian people.
2. A Consideration of the Complaint
The National Human Rights Commission of Thailand (NHRCT) considered the complaint and had several points for consideration. Firstly, The Mitr Phol Sugar Company Limited, a Thai business entity, may operate its business in a way that had violated international obligations that Thailand has ratified, including The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration. There is a possibility that the operation would be against the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: Implementing the Protect, Respect, Remedy Framework (2011). The UN Guiding Principle suggests that a business entity respect human rights, avoid any action or any engagement in any action which create adverse impacts on human rights or human rights violation of other people. Finally, the UN Guiding Principle recommended a remedy for any negative impact that a business entity had involved. A business entity must seek measures to prevent and mitigate the human-right-related risks of their direct production or service resulting from their business relationships although the enterprises do not directly involved in creating an adverse effects.
The above complaint is well-grounded that an operation of a Thai business entity may involve and may cause human rights violation against Cambodian people. Moreover, the Complainants are non-profit organizations with legal entity under the Thai law and are working to promote and/or protect human rights without the political aim or profit seeking aim. Thus, the Complainants are eligible to lodge a complaint under Section 24 of the National Human Rights Commission Act 1999 and the complaint is under the NHRCT is authorize to consider the complaint under the National Human Rights Commission Act 1999 Section 15 (1), (2) and (3), which stipulates that the NHRCT is mandated to promote protection and compliance with human rights principles in the domestic and international level; to investigate and report an act of commission or omission which constitutes a human rights violation or an non-compliance with Thailand’s international human rights instruments that Thailand has ratified; and to provide policy recommendations and legal recommendations to amend law, rules or regulations to the Parliament and the Cabinet, in order to promote and protect human rights.
In the NHRCT’s Complaint Screening and Consideration of Human Rights Violations Report Sub-Commission meeting Session 16/2013, on 13 June 2013, approved the acceptance of the complaint and forwarded it to the Sub-Committee on Community Rights for further consideration and action.
3. An Investigation
The Sub-Committee on Community Rights considered the complaint, the record of the exponents and relevant parties and conducted an investigation by virtue of the National Human Rights Commission Act 1999, Section 15. According to the complaint, Mitr Phol Sugar Company Limited operated a business with a concession to run sugar refinery factories and sugar cane plantation in Samrong District and Chongkal District in Oddar Meanchey Province, in Northeastern Cambodia. The investigation therefore examined whether an act of commission whether the company had conducted actions that constitute a violation of other people’s human rights and whether the company has prepared to prevent or mitigate the adverse impacts on human rights that might occurred in related to their business or having the measure to implement a fair remedy or compensation. Additionally, the investigation also considered whether it would be appropriate to have a policy recommendation to the Cabinet and/or relevant agencies on the case.
3.1 Statement from the Complainants
The Complainants are the non-governmental human rights organizations, registered as a legal entity under the law (Foundation for Ecological Recovery) and non-governmental Cambodian organizations, namely: Equitable Cambodia and Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO) gave an oral statement to The Sub-Committee on Community Rights on 11 November 2014 and submitted written statements. The said organization stated that Mitr Phol Sugar Company Limited, a Thai national private company, involved in human rights violation incidents in Cambodia. The detail of the statement can be concluded as follows.
On January 2008, Ministry of Forestry and Fishery granted an Economic Land Concession (ELCs) for 70 years in Sarong District and Chongkal District in Oddar Meanchey Province in the Northeast of Cambodia to three sugarcane companies, namely:
(1) Angor Sugar Co.; Ltd.
(2) Tonle Sugar Cane Co., Ltd
(3) Cane and Sugar Valley Co., Ltd.
The companies are subsidiary of Mitr Phol Sugar Group. The three companies’ directors are high level personnel(s) of Mitr Phol Sugar Company Limited. The concessions have been granted in the same day from the Cambodian Cabinet. The three companies also signed the concession agreements in the same day. Altogether, the three companies have been granted over 19,700 Hectare of land (1 Hectare = 6.25 Rai) in Bos village, O’Bat Moan village, Taman village, Trapaing Veng village and Ktum village.
2. Problems and Impacts in Cambodia
2.1 Forced eviction and house torching
After the concession was granted, in April 2013 the Angor Sugar Co., Ltd.’s workers had destroyed 154 villagers’ households, in O’Bat Moan village. Meanwhile, 150 police officials, military officials, and forest officials had evicted, demolished and torched villagers from Bos village. In October 2009, the demolition was carried out against another 100 households in O’Bat Moan village. In total, 254 households of O’Bat Moan households were destroyed.
2.2 Arrest, Prosecution and Detention
During the forced eviction, former village leaders were arrested, assaulted and detained. Two community leaders were sentenced to two years imprisonment for deforestation in a state- owned area. The other two were released after six months under a detention before a trial. One of the arrestees is a woman named Hoy Mai, a Bos villager. Ms. Hoy Mai testified before the Sub-Committee on Community Rights on 11 November 2014 that on 12 October 2009, her husband, six villagers and herself walked on foot to petition Somdej Hunsen, the Prime Minister in Phnom Penh, after the Bos village was evicted torched and demolished. When they arrived in Phnom Penh, the party was refused to see the Prime Minister, thus they camped out at night in an ancient pagoda in the heart of Phnom Penh City. At night, the police arrested them, while other people and Ms. Hoy Mai’s husband could escaped, she was arrested and criminally charged for violating a forestry law. She was transferred to a prison in Siem Reap Province while she was five months pregnant at the time.
Ms. Hoy Mai was imprisoned for eight months, later on in June 2012, she and her son, who had been born in the prison, was released in exchange for signing an agreement to withdraw her demand for land rights in Bos village and that she agreed to receive a piece of resettlement land as a compensation package. Nevertheless, she returned to her house and did not receive any piece of land promised in the agreement.
2.3 Loss of agricultural land
Villagers lost a large amount of their paddy fields, plantations and fruit orchards. A survey indicated that on average, each villager’s household lost five hectares of paddy land. Moreover, the land-grabbing happened during the harvest season, thus villagers lost all of their crops. It was also found that the concession recipient also sold the crops from such expropriation.
2.4 Lack of food security
When villagers lost their agricultural area and an access to harvest their crops, they also lost their food resources to sustain their livelihood in addition to inadequate money to nourish themselves. Furthermore, community forest areas, which was a traditional foraging were destroyed from the company’s sugar cane plantations. It was found that Angor Sugar Co., Ltd’s concession reduced an area of a community forest (which was being applied an official community forest certification) in Rattanak Sambak, from 28,772 Hectare to 12,872 Hectare. Consequentially, thousands of residents from 16 villages were affected. Sugar cane plantation also blocked accesses to natural water resources for consumption, utility , fishery and edible plants harvest, whereas remaining ones were polluted and scare, thus reducing an amount of fish harvest.
Despite the fact that villagers lost habitat, arable land, crops and natural food resources from Mitr Phol Sugar Company Limited’s concession,some villagers had not received any money or other forms of compensation. Villagers who received compensation reported that the amount of compensation assessed was lower than the actual damage caused. Additionally, only 14 families that received compensation in term of the land for the resettlement. However, the houses in the resettlement land are of low quality and could not be used as their habitat. Villagers had to use plastic fertilizer or rice sacs to repair the houses. There was drinking and utility water shortage. Traveling and transportation in the area was restricted because of the long distance to the relocation site, required time and high transportation cost. Healthcare services, education and communication to the external areas were limited. The nearest school was located ten kilometers away from the relocation site. The land that were compensated to villagers did not have any land title. Despite the fact that villagers had been trying to request for written land titles, the requests was always rejected. The compensation process was conducted without any participation from villagers. Additionally, they were subjected to threats, intimidation frauds and corruption.
4. Income and occupations
Some villagers from the affected areas were allowed to work in sugarcane planation. Nevertheless, an income from such occupation is not sufficient to make a living because on average, a worker would earn 10,000 Riel (2.50 USD) for 10-12 hours working day. The workers were not permitted to leave the plantation, unless they were sick. According to Pred, D. and Nuijen. M. (2013) Bittersweet Harvest: A Case Study on the Displacement Impacts of the EU Everything but Arms Initiative in Cambodia. Oxford: Forthcoming Publication, pregnant women and child workers were brazenly employed. The danger causing by poor health protection standard in the workplace and poor safety regulation was therefore obvious. For example, the companies did not train workers to use chemical substances spray, protection gears and equipment were not distributed to workers. As a result, workers fell ill. Some workers reported skin irritation and some vomited blood. The employment was precarious as the companies only used workers in the plantation averagely two to four months a year.
5. Intervention provided by Cambodian organizations
In 2010, numbers of Cambodian organizations lodged a complaint with many supporting documents about the human rights violation to Better Sugarcane Initiatives, at the present is known as “Bonsucro,” an association based in England with the mission to make the sugar productions have a standard and sustainable, by conforming to [sugar production] standard. Mitr Phol Sugar Company Limited used to be the member of this Better Sugarcane Initiative thus the complaint was forwarded to the company. However, later the company resigned from being Bonsucro member and has operated without an accreditation from the said Association.
Succeeding to the above action, a non-governmental organizations alliance called Clean Sugar Campaign attempted to have the company to respond, by lodging a complaint to Business and Human Rights Resource Center, a nonprofit website operating as a platform for private company accused of inappropriate conducts to respond to an accusation. On 24 July 2012, the company responded through the aforementioned website and denied the accusation. The company also affirmed that it should not be the responsible entity for human rights violation in its Cambodian investment because the Cambodian government has already verified the investment.
6. Violation of Cambodian law
The law governing land concession on Cambodia: Land Law of Cambodia 2001, Article 59, prescribes the limit of not exceeding 10,000 Hectares, or 62,500 Rai (1 Hectare is equal to 6.25 Rai) to an economic land concession per an applicant. In this case, the three land concession was registered separately under the different companies but the Mitr Phol Company Limited admitted that the three companies are connected to one another.
Additionally, in the Sub-decree No. 146 on Economic Land Concession 2005, prescribed certain requirements that a company received the concession must implement. For example, Article 12 and Article 20 stipulate that the company must conduct a social and environmental impact assessment. However, in reality, the villagers had never received any impact assessment documents, which was required by the law.
7. Violations of international human rights obligation
The complainants considered that the impacts suffered by villagers in the concession areas, covering Bos Village, O’Bat Moan Village, Taman Village, Trapiang Veng Village and Klum Village in Samrong District and Chongkal District, Oddar Meanchey Province, in the Northeast of Cambodia violated human rights agreement [obligation] in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) on forced eviction and right to food (Article 11, Subsection 1); Arrest and Detention (Article 9 - ICCPR) and violation of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: Implementing the Protect, Respect, Remedy Framework (2011).
8. A study report on impacts of land concession for sugarcane plantation and sugar factories in O’Bat Moan Village, Oddar Meanchey Province, Cambodia
Equitable Cambodia and LICADHO jointly conducted a field research in O’Bat Moan Village during September - October 2014. The village is among those suffering the impacts and it was selected as a study site because the village sustained the most severe damages.
The research interviewed 48 villagers who had been forcible evicted from the village to gain at least 22 per cent of the overall 214 households that had been evicted from their land. Twenty eight persons of the interviewees were included in the list of the people lodging the complaint with the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand and 20 people have been certified by their village leaders that they have been genuinely affected.
The questionnaire used in the survey was jointly developed by Equity Cambodia and Foundation for Ecological Recovery. The original it was later translated to Cambodian. The questionnaire comprised of open-ended questions in five parts; namely:
- Information about an informant;
- Circumstances and livelihood of an informant before the sugarcane factory was in the area;
- Circumstances and livelihood of an informant when the sugarcane factory was in the area;
- Present and future situation; and
- Complaints to the NHRCT.
The finding from the research concluded that before the O’Bat Moan village was evicted, in 2008 and 2009, the majority of respondents (over 90 per cent) could make an adequate living for their families from integrated farming and foraging food from the forest nearby. Paddy rice was the majority source of income for respondents at 83 per cent and foraging in the forest contributed to 17 per cent of income. Most of respondents reported that they also planted other vegetables on their land. Despite they had a low monthly income at 566,600 Riel per month (140 USD) but they could sufficiently rely on paddy rice to feed the family.
In October 2009, all respondents were forcibly and violently evicted from their home in flavor of a sugarcane plantation. Per family, they had lost the settlement land for housing approximately 40x60 square meter and 5 Hectares of agriculture area (about 31.25 Rai) along with many houses and properties. Although they were pressured and intimidated by local authorities, most of the respondents (45 from 48 persons) refused to relocate to a resettlement site because they did not receive a fair compensation package, comprising of only one hectare (about 6.25 Rai) of fallow land to replace the five hectares of confiscated land.
The research also revealed significant changes in livelihood of the respondents after the land grabbing. The land was the main resource of income from paddy rice and forest foraging before the forced eviction. Loss of land and forest contributed to the interviewees’ family to change their livelihood. Only 30 per cent of the interviewees affirmed that agriculture is still their main source of their incomes, whereas, 35 per cent reported that they have become laborers in agricultural sector or construction sector. Despite the number of the family who practiced foraging in the forest was more or less the same, they reported that the amount of the harvests decreased significantly because for significant loss of forest areas.
On average, the people’s income was lower from an average of 566,600 Riel (about 140 USD) per month before the forced eviction to 496,200 Riel (about 124 USD) per month after the relocation. Although the overall income decrease did not significantly changed but the decrease from agriculture and forest income was heavily felt among the farmers and forest gatherers.
5. Observations and Resolution of the all Community Rights Sub-commission
The Sub-Committee on Community Rights has considered information from oral testimony and documents from the Complainants, an additional fact-finding mission from the affected villagers in O’Bat Moan Village, Taman Village, Trapaing Veng Village and Ktum Village on 31 August 2014. For the company’s party, the Sub-commission also considered the documents and oral testimony from Mitr Phol Group Company Limited. The Sub-commission makes following facts and observations.
(1) The five communities in Bos Village, O’Bat Moan Village, Taman Village, Trapaing Veng Village and Ktum Village are local communities. There are Cambodian residents living and making a living in the area for a long time. Villagers usually rely on agriculture for a living, such as paddy rice and grains and vegetable cultivation, gathering food from nearby community forest. The fact is in coherence with the finding from a field research conducted at O’Bat Moan Village that villagers can make a living for their families when they practiced integrated agriculture, foraging products from the nearby area, which used to be their main source of income. Villagers relied on other vegetations for food and supplemental income.
O’Bat Moan villagers lived sustainable lives because the paddy rice was enough for the families. Five villages relied on natural resources for their livelihood for a long period of time, thus, they have the rightful self-determination, the freedom to manage their properties and natural resources, and the rights not to have their livelihood destroyed by any mean. Those rights are enshrined in the international law and the ASEAN Declaration on Human Rights.
(2) Land management under the concessions granted to Mitr Phol Sugar Company Limited caused adverse effects and human rights violations to Cambodian people from forced eviction away from the villages that they had been living for a long time. Moreover, over one hundred of villages in O’Bat Moan and Bos villages had been torched. Villagers who came out to make demand had been arrested and had faced legal actions. As a result, most people lost all of their farm land. In some cases, affected people were left with limited areas of land that was insufficient to generate adequate income to feed the whole family. Their food security was reduced because of lack of land, lack of access to harvest agricultural products they had grown, and lack of access to forage in the community forest, where the company had been granted the concession. The information from the Complainants is coherence with the information from the Community Rights Sub-commissioner’s hearing from villagers of O’Bat Moan, Taman, Trapaing Veng and Ktum on 11 August 2014.
Apart from the compensation on damages and loss of their properties, the affected people demand that their land be returned to owners because the loss of land has tremendous adverse impacts to their livelihood. Despite Mitr Phil Group (Mitr Phol Sugar Company Limited), testified orally and in writing, on 14 July 2013, that the company had never supported already owned land encroachment, forced eviction and property destruction. It also indicated that the Company has conformed to every step required the Cambodian domestic law and the UN Guiding Principle on Business and Human Rights. Under the contract, the Cambodian Government was undertook land surveys to grant the concession to Mitr Phol Group. At the moment, the company has already tendered a cancelation of the land concession to the Cambodian Government and closed its subsidiary companies in Cambodia. Nevertheless, when it is found that the company has known that there was human rights violation conducted from forced eviction, torching houses, damaging agricultural assets and harvests which belonged to the villagers, in order to force them out of their land and that the land would be able to be utilized for the company’s concession. As a result of these actions, the affected villagers suffered from habitat deprivation, unfair compensation, attacks and legal actions, which was a result of the villagers’ demand for justice. Thus, the human rights violations in Cambodian perpetrated because of the operation by the Angor Sugar Co., Ltd, the Tonle Sugar Cane Co., Ltd and the Cane and Sugar Valley Co., Ltd. — all of which were a direct investment or a joint investment of Mitr Phol Sugar Company Limited to receive a land concession to operate in Cambodia, is in compliance to the United Nations Guiding Principle on Business and Human Rights: Implementing the Protect, Respect, Remedy Framework 2011. The UN Guiding Principle stipulated that a business entity must respect human rights and avoid any action or involvement to cause adverse effects on human rights and/or human rights violation and must provide remedy for any adverse effects caused by its involvement. A business entity is also liable to prevent or reduce negative impacts from its direct business operation or service caused by a business relationship, despite it may not directly cause such adverse effects.
From the complaints, Mitr Phol Sugar Company Limited started the process for the withdrawal the concession to the Cambodian Government, left the concession areas and began its process to shut the subsidiary companies in Cambodia. The company also hired an international consulting company to study the damages from the concession. The company also stated with The Sub-Committee on Community Rights that it would take the responsibility to the damages incurred under then International Finance Company, which has been used internationally by the ADB and World Bank to remedy the damage to the Cambodian people, thus it indicated that the company admitted that there were human rights violation in the concession area and it demonstrated an intention to address the problems from its business relationship.
The Sub-Committee on Community Rights considered that the human rights violations occurred in the land the company was given the concession. Thus, it is Mitr Phol Company Limited’s direct responsibility because the company has business benefit from the concession of the land. Despite the fact that the company has submitted a petition to return the concession to the Cambodian Government and closed its subsidiary in Cambodia to eliminate any legal connection in the concession area but the is still liable to correct and remedy the impacts, as stipulated in the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights :
Implementing the Protect, Respect, Remedy Framework (2011), that a business entity must prevent or reduce human rights impacts, whether it is from its direct operation or business administration, which is a result of business relationship, despite the business entity may not cause impacts. The business entity is advised to operate their business with responsibility, using human rights principle to prevent, to reduce adverse impacts, to assess negative impacts and to monitor impact closely. The company should also communicate to the public to ensure that the affected persons will receive fair redress and remedy.
The Sub-commission observed that the Mitr Phol Company Limited land concession is related to the human rights violation in Cambodia, thus the company is liable to completely address the problems and remedy the damages under the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: Implementing the Protect, Respect, Remedy Framework (2011) as previously mentioned above.
The Sub-commission, thus, issues the following policy recommendations to Mitr Phol Sugar Company Limited and to the Thai Government.
(1) Mitr Phol Sugar Company Limited should consider to provide remedies and compensations for the damages in Bos Village, O’Bat Moan Village, Taman Village, Trapaing Veng Village and Ktum Village in Oddar Meanchey Province, the Northeastern part of Cambodia, as it had stated the intention to The Sub-Committee on Community Rights earlier on 12 May 2015 and on its letter dated 9 July 2015. It is advised that the local villagers should be consulted in every step for any consideration to provide remedies from the company, until the affected people will have been compensated fairly. The company should also consider to give a warranty and ensure that villagers will received their land back in the size and area where they used to live and earn their livelihood.
(2) The Cabinet, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Commerce, the Stock Exchange of Thailand, the Bank of Thailand and relevant Thai authorities should establish a mechanism or stipulate obligations that ensure Thai overseas investment will respect basic principles of human rights by using the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: Implementing the Protect, Respect, Remedy Framework (2011) as an operational framework.
6. Observation from the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand
The National Human Rights Commission of Thailand has considered the matter in the protection and protection standard in the 32/2558 (2015), on 23 September 2015. The case on Mitr Phol Sugar Company Limited and other three business partners: Angor Sugar Co.Ltd., Tonle Sugar Cane Co.Ltd., and Cane and Sugar Valley Co., Ltd. have committed and action or an omission that violate human rights in Sarong District, Chongkal District, Oddar Meanchey Province in the Northeastern Cambodia, in Bos Village, O’Bat Moan Village, Taman Village and Trapaing Veng Village and Ktum Village, where Mitr Phol Sugar Company Limited, a Thai national business entity has jointly operated in the business. . The Human Rights Commission considered that the business operation in Cambodian territory has not adhered to the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: Implementing the Protect, Respect, Remedy Framework (2011) part 2, Article 11, 13 and the company should be responsible to its operation under the Principle as in Article 17,18,22 and 23.
The finding from the Community Rights Sub-commission from the meeting on 12 May 2015, the clarification letter from the Mitr Phol Sugar Company Limited, dated 9 July 2015 has stated that it withdrew the concession to the and return the land to the Cambodian Government. The company also hired an international consulting company to study the damages from the concession. The majority of the Community Rights Sub-Commission (5 majority votes) considered that the MItr Phol Sugar Company Limited should reconsider its business operation in a way that it would have not violated human rights in any form, The company should consider to remedy and compensate damages in Bos Village, O’Bat Moan Village, Taman Village and Trapaing Veng Village and Ktum Village Oddar Meanhey Province, the the Northeastern part of Cambodia as the company has stated to The Sub-Committee on Community Rights on 12 May 2015 and in writing through a clarification letter, date 9 July 2015, until all affected party will receive appropriate and fair compensation and remedy. The National Human Rights Commission also proposed the following policy recommendation to the Cabinet and relevant agencies.
1. Policy Recommendation
The National Human Rights Commission of Thailand proposed the Cabinet, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Commerce, Stock Exchange of Thailand, Bank of Thailand and relevant Thai authorities should establish a mechanism or stipulate an obligation that keep Thai overseas investment respect basic principles of human rights by using the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: Implementing the Protect, Respect, Remedy Framework (2011) as an operational framework.
1. Resolution of The National Human Rights Commission
From the above reasons, the National Human Rights Commission considered a policy recommendation under Section 15(3) of the National Human Rights Commission Act (1999) under the item No. 7 to the Cabinet, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Commerce, the Stock Exchange of Thailand and other relevant agencies. The Office of National Human Rights Commission is assigned to request for results from the recommendation in the future.
(Professor Amara Pongsapich)
Chairperson, the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand
(Mr. Taijing Siripanich)
Member, the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand
(Mr. Nirun Phitakwatchara)
Member, the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand
(Mr. Parinya Sirisarakarn)
Member, the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand
(Mr. Paiboon Warahapaitoon)
Member, the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand
(Pol.Gen. Wanchai Srinulnat)
Member, the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand
(Mrs. Visa Benchamano)
Member, the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand
Note: The dissenting opinions of minority votes of Members (Mr. Parinya Sirisarakarn and Pol.Gen. Wanchai Srinulnat) were recorded and published in a Report of the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand’s Meetings on Protection and Standards of Human Rights Protection, No. 32, dated 21st September 2015 and No.32, dated 21st September 2015 respectivel