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Forced evictions and land grabbing for sugarcane plantations, Oddar Meanchey, Cambodia

EU “Everything but Arms” (EBA) initiative is leading to brutal forced displacement of Cambodian farmers.


“They burned everything…including the rice. They didn’t allow us to harvest first. They said they wanted to grow sugarcane. They destroyed our houses so they could grow sugarcane.” (Widow, Oddar Meanchey province (1)).

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Forced evictions and land grabbing for sugarcane plantations, Oddar Meanchey, Cambodia
State or province:Oddar Meanchey province
Location of conflict:Samrong district, Chong Kal district
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Land acquisition conflicts
Plantation conflicts (incl. Pulp
Intensive food production (monoculture and livestock)
Agro-fuels and biomass energy plants
Specific commodities:Land
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The European Union (EU) has supported the sugar industry through the agreement “Everything but Arms” (EBA) with least developed countries (LDC) such as Cambodia. Companies operating in Cambodia can access the European market without tariffs and at a minimum guaranteed price. For sugar, the minimum guaranteed price has been on average three times the world-market price. While the extent of Sugarcane plantations in Cambodia was negligible in 2006, in 2012 it amounted to more than 100,000 ha. Cambodian sugar exports jumped to 13.8 million$ in 2011, 92% of which was exported to the EU (1).

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Project area:19,700
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:33 villages
Start of the conflict:24/01/2008
Company names or state enterprises:Angkor Sugar Co,. Ltd from Cambodia - sugar, sugarcane, agro-industry
Tonle Sugar Cane Company Ltd. from Cambodia - sugar, sugarcane, agro-industry
Cane and Sugar Valley Company from Cambodia - sugar, sugarcane, agro-industry
Mitr Phol Sugar Corporation (MPSC) from Thailand - sugar, bioenergy, agro-industry
Coca-Cola Company from United States of America
Relevant government actors:Ly Yong Phat, ruling party (CPP) senator
International and Finance InstitutionsEuropean Union (EU)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:LICADHO
Equitable Cambodia
Inclusive Development International
NGOs that signed the joint statement regarding intimidation of NGO workers investigating the case:
Equitable Cambodia, Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC), Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO), Sahmakum Teang Tnaut (STT), Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR), LICADHO Canada, People's Action for Change (PAC), Inclusive Development International (IDI), Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee (CHRAC), Community Peace-Building Network (CPN), Coalition of Cambodian Farmer Community (CCFC), Diakonia, Indigenous Community Support Organization (ICSO), Building Community Voices (BCV), Cambodian Food and Service Workers' Federation (CFSWF), Cooperation Committee for Cambodia (CCC), Housing Rights Task Force (HRTF), Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA), The NGO Forum on Cambodia (NGOF), Banteay Srei, Cambodia Indigenous Youth Association (CIYA), Highlander Association (HA), Asian NGO Coalition for Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (ANGOC), Heinrich Böll Stiftung.
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Boycotts of companies-products
Refusal of compensation
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Potential: Air pollution, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Health ImpactsVisible: Malnutrition, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..)
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Loss of livelihood, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Specific impacts on women
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Criminalization of activists
Land demarcation
Proposal and development of alternatives:Proposals/recommendations put forward, according to the "Bittersweet Harvest" report (1), released by Equitable Cambodia (EC) and Inclusive Development International (IDI):
To the EU: that EU should investigate impacts; temporarily suspend EBA trade; verify that producers are not involved in Human rights abuses or environmental destruction; ban import of agricultural goods produced on illegally acquired land, among others.
To The Cambodian Government: Enforce the moratorium on new ELC; assure that the required social and environmental impact assessments are conducted; cancel concessions that violate human rights; support dispossessed families in returning to their land; return illegally granted concession land; and stop state military-backed up evictions, among others.
To the involved companies: Stop forced evictions; stop destruction of community natural resources; stop using violence against people; return illegally appropriated land; stop using child labour, among others.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The project goes on at the cost of communities and the environment.
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

(2) 2005 Subdecree on Economic Land Concessions (ELC) in Cambodia
[click to view]

Cambodia's land law and related regulatory frameworks
[click to view]

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

(1) EC & IDI 2013. Bittersweet Harvest: A human rights impact assessment of the European Union's Everything but Arms Initiative in Cambodia. Equitable Cambodia and Inclusive Development International (accessed 16/02/2015)
[click to view]

(3) Hands off the land, 2014. Case Dossier: Cambodia. Sugar cane plantations, human rights violations and EU's "Everything but Arms" initiative. (accessed 18/02/2015)
[click to view]

(5) Joint Statement regarding the Oddar Meanchey Authorities’ Continued Illegal Conduct

Towards Equitable Cambodia’s Staff (accessed 18/02/2015)
[click to view]

(4) The Cambodian Daily (10.10.2014): "Oddar Meanchey Police break Up Meeting Between NGO, Evictees". (accessed 18/02/2015)
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Video produced in relation to the Bittersweet Harvest report (accessed 16/02/2015)
[click to view]

Amnesty International video interview with an evicted women from Bos village
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:A. Scheidel (ICTA-UAB) arnim.scheidel "at"
Last update18/08/2019
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