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Logging on indigenous Souy land in Kampong Speu, Cambodia

Chinese-owned sugarcane company HLH Group Ltd. began deforestation on indigenous Souy land in 2009. After collective action of all the villagers, HLH agreed to stop. Other companies, however, continued to landgrab when the government later seized the land


The indigenous Souy people, with a total population of around 1,350 people, live in five small villages spread across their ancestral lands at the base of Mount Kirirom, Oral District, Kampong Speu Province [2]. Their land, rich in natural resources, is the foundation for their rotational subsistence farming lifestyle, which plays a critical stewardship role in maintaining forest biodiversity and reducing CO2 emissions. Their livelihoods are increasingly threatened by extractivist projects, however. 

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Logging on indigenous Souy land in Kampong Speu, Cambodia
State or province:Kampong Speu
Location of conflict:Chiin
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:Deforestation
Plantation conflicts (incl. Pulp
Land acquisition conflicts
Logging and non timber extraction
Specific commodities:Sugar
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Type of populationRural
Affected Population:1,350
Start of the conflict:01/01/2009
End of the conflict:12/04/2010
Company names or state enterprises:HLH Group Ltd from China
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Indigenous Peoples NGO Network
International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Indigenous Souy
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Land occupation
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Street protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Food insecurity (crop damage), Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity)
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Loss of livelihood, Militarization and increased police presence
Potential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures
Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Repression
Violent targeting of activists
Project cancelled
Withdrawal of company/investment
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:The case was initially thought of as a great success owing to the Souy managing to protect their lands from HLH. However, without laws in place to prevent future damages, their lands have since been seized by the government and sold to other Chinese developers anyway.
Sources & Materials
Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

[1] IWGIA. Putla: A 75-year-old woman indigenous rights defender (2019)
[click to view]

[2] Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact. Threatened lands, threatened lives (2014)
[click to view]

[3] OHCHR. Indigenous Women of Asia and Access to Justice (2012)
[click to view]

[4] Foreign Policy. In Cambodia, a Spiritual Army Battles an Earthly Pandemic (Sacker 2020)
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Dalena Tran, ICTA-UAB, [email protected]
Last update11/01/2021
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