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Soc-fin KCD conflict, Cambodia


Description:

In December 2008, hundreds of ethnic Bunong villagers protested against the company who had started clearing the forest and fields close to the village.

Villagers torched and smashed vehicles belonging to the company. People were angry because the company’s land clearing disrupted their agricultural activities, as family farms and crops have been destroyed to make space for the rubber tree nursery. The land, 2700 ha, was granted by the government in 2007. According to the villagers, the company offered them three options: relocate the families on other farmland of the same size; pay a compensation to the families who would accept to leave their land; let them stay on their land if they produce rubber and they will get a share of the profit from the company. But at that time, these solutions did not appear fair to the villagers who simply asked to get their land back. Few days after the protest, a meeting was organized, attended by company representatives, villagers, local and provincial authorities, and NGOs. There, 1030 families from seven villages (the majority of them Bunong) declared that the land belonged to them, because they have been using it for their rotational farming activities since decades, and they have legal ownership according to the Land Law, which protect indigenous common property rights. The meeting failed, as the villagers accused the authorities of being biased in favor of the company. According to the authorities, villagers will benefit from the company, getting new jobs, hospitals, schools and houses for rubber workers. But the villagers did not agree and claimed instead that if anybody wants to improve the living standards of the people, they should come and discuss with the people first, not just send equipment and start clearing land. Now the tension has fallen and internal division has appeared. Some villagers sold their land (between 200 and USD 300 per ha, which is very low) while the company invited the local elite to a meal washed down with plenty of beer and offered a huge show to the villagers during festivities which included the most famous comics of the Cambodian scene, escort girls and fireworks.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Soc-fin KCD conflict, Cambodia
Country:Cambodia
State or province:Mondulkiri
Location of conflict:Village of Bousra
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Plantation conflicts (incl. Pulp
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific commodities:Rubber

Project Details and Actors

Project details

According to WRM (2009):

On April 8 2009, it was announced by the daily newspaper Phnom Penh Post that a joint rubber deal had been signed, between “France’s Socfina and the Khaou Chuly Group to create 10,000 hectares rubber plantation and processing facilities in Mondulkiri”. The President of Khaou Chuly declared that “his company was providing 30% of the total capital, with the other 70 percent to be supplied by the French company.”

In fact, the name of Socfina seems to be wrong as everybody on the field talk about Socfin. According to our research, this company is based in Cambodia, directed by Philippe Monnin, a French expert in rubber plantation who worked for years as consultant for the Cambodian ministry of Agriculture on projects of family scale rubber plantations in Kompong Cham province.

On the web (www.socfinal.lu) it appears that Socfin KCD is owned at 60% by Socfinasia, with is held at 53% by Socfinal, a holding based in Luxemburg. Socfinal is a mixed group, which is controlled by Belgian families, amongst them the Fabri, and held at 38% by a French financial and agribusiness group, lead by Bolloré. Questioned on the main shareholders of Socfin in Cambodia, a source gave the names of the French Vincent Bolloré, and the Belgian Hubert Fabri. Two names that come again and again in this galaxy. So Socfin KCD is one of this constellation of companies involved in the rubber plantations in Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Congo (RDC), Kenya, Cameroon, Liberia and Indonesia and… Cambodia. A recent article by the French newspaper Le Monde diplomatique informs us about the activities in Africa of the Bolloré group (Port, rail, plantations: le triste bilan de Bolloré au Cameroun, www.monde-diplomatique.fr April 2009).

Socfin KCD is also one of these subsidiary companies of companies founded with cross holdings, a system that allows the shareholders, always the same small group of persons, to save a maximum profit and pay minimum taxes. Of course they are located in tax havens where the profits disappear. A very interesting investigation written by a French journalist, Martine Orange, has been published in February 2009 by the web newspaper Mediapart (the investigation is available at this address: www.mediapart.fr/files/Bollore_iliad.pdf).

Project area:6,978
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:About 1000 families
Start of the conflict:2007
End of the conflict:2009
Company names or state enterprises:Khaou Chuly Development from Cambodia
Socfin from Luxembourg
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:None

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Ethnic Bunong
Forms of mobilization:Street protest/marches
Property damage/arson

Impacts

Environmental ImpactsPotential: Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Loss of livelihood, Land dispossession, Violations of human rights
Potential: Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..)

Outcome

Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Proposal and development of alternatives:FIDH therefore urges the Royal Government of Cambodia to:
− Apply an immediate moratorium on all ELCs ; and undertake a contractual compliance review
of all concessions , suspend those found to be operating unlawfully until full compliance with
national and international law;
− Facilitate rapid registration of indigenous communities and ensure effective and good faith
application of interim protection measures when registration as legal entities or collective
titling is not secured; 8 / Cambodia - Land Cleared for Rubber Rights Bulldozed – FIDH
− Ensure adequate and meaningful consultation and participation of communities affected by
ECLs, including to seek the free, prior and informed consent;
− Establish an independent monitoring mechanism on large scale agribusiness to guarantee the
respect for human rights standards and responsible agro-investment (involving civil society
representatives);
− Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of human rights
defenders in Cambodia, including land rights defenders.
FIDH is calling on Socfin-KCD to :
− Suspend all operations of the company until all the current disputes are resolved;
− Implement recommendations of the 2010 ESIA, including measures to protect the traditions
of the Bunong and to ensure the sustainability of their livelihoods;
− Review compensation provided to ensure compliance with international standards, including
compensation for moral damage.
FIDH is also calling on Luxembourg and other European home states involved to:
− Adopt legal and policy measures to ensure private actors legally registered under their
jurisdiction can be held accountable for human rights violations abroad and that victims have
access to effective remedies;
− Require that issuers listed on the Luxembourg Stock Exchange disclose the social and
environmental impacts of their activities (including those of their subsidiaries). [1]
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The company basically won and was able to continue its operations.

Sources & Materials

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

WRM Bulletin N°142 (May 2009)
http://wrm.org.uy/bulletins/issue-142/

[1] Cambodia - Land Cleared for Rubber Rights Bulldozed – FIDH
http://www.fidh.org/IMG/pdf/report_cambodia_socfin-kcd_low_def.pdf

Meta information

Contributor:J.-F. Gerber
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:1221