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World Tristar Entertainment Ltd. land grab in the Koh Sla region, Kampot, Cambodia


Description:

This land grab, caused by the company World Tristar Entertainment (Cambodia) Co. Ltd., is an example of how Economic Land Concessions (ELC) in Cambodia are leading to the loss of livelihood of the most poor rural farmers, while destroying the country’s valuable natural resources.

Trapang Phlang commune, which is most affected by this ELC, is a small-farmer commune located in the Koh-slah region, Chhouk district, in Kampot province. The commune expands over 51,900 ha, 2,849 of which are agricultural land. Many families in these areas are comprised of former Khmer Rouge soldiers, who were reintegrated into Cambodian society during the 1990s and received small land plots of 0.5ha for subsistence farming. The area is one of the most depressed areas in Cambodia, with only remote access to public infrastructure such as schools. Malnutrition, malaria and social problems such as domestic violence have been commonly reported in the community, characterized by largely subsistence farming and some additional cash cropping such as through the production of jasmine rice and other industrial crops (1). The region however is rich of natural resources, such as forests and wildlife, which also benefits the local communities.

The commune’s subsistence activities have been interrupted in 2005, when the government granted a 9,800ha ELC land lease concession for 70 years to World Tristar Entertainment (Cambodia) Co. Ltd., subsidiary of Vietnamese So Nguon group. The contract was signed on April 21, 2005 and the company stated to pursue cultivation of maize, beans, cassava and other crops (2). When the company first started to clear the land in the commune, villagers welcomed the activities, hoping they would bring employment. However, when they started to clear the land plots of farmers, people started to protest against these activities and threatened the company to burn their tractors. In 2010, five villagers were charged of sabotage and they had to give their fingerprints and promise to stop protesting, otherwise they would be jailed. However, other villagers continued to resist (6). Attempts to settle the conflict through local authorities failed, as Tristar insisted on their ELC, granted by the Ministry of Agriculture, while the villagers insisted that it was their land. As stated by a villager in an interview: “Losing our rice fields is like losing our pots for cooking rice” (1). The conflictive concession area covers 5,100ha (1).

Following protests, the government finally asked the company to return the 5,100ha of land to the villagers; however they only received 3,000ha back. The villagers repeated that they were not against the company, which may bring jobs, as long as they would fully return their land plots, but Tristar refused to do so. A further dimension was added to the conflict, when in 2010 10 tonnes of illegally logged rosewood were confiscated in the company’s warehouse. Hence, Tristar apparently used the concession to operate illegal logging activities in the surrounding forests, which is a million-dollar business in Cambodia (3). In April 2011, the government officially cancelled the ELC due to inactivity and illegal logging activities, however, Tristar did not disappear from the Ministry’s list of land concessions, and company’s spokesperson said the concession was re-granted in July 2011, after agreeing to an investigation of the concessions (4). In the same month, around 170 villagers were poisoned by herbicide, applied by the company near the villagers’ homes, resulting in further health problems (5).

The current status of the project is unknown, but the ELC is still listed in most databases, as well as on the company’s website.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:World Tristar Entertainment Ltd. land grab in the Koh Sla region, Kampot, Cambodia
Country:Cambodia
State or province:Kampot province
Location of conflict:Trapang Phlang commune, Koh Slah region, Chhouk 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
Logging and non timber extraction
Specific commodities:Land
Timber
rosewood
Corn/Maize

Project Details and Actors

Project details

The commune expands over an area of 51,900ha. The company has an ELC over 9,800ha (initially it was bigger than 10,000ha, but was afterwards reduced). 5,100ha of this land overlaps with villagers land (2)

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF), the purpose is to develop maize, bean and cassava plantations. According to the company's webpage, Tristar is looking for a partner to invest into the project. The company is a subsidiary of the Vietnamese So Nguon group, which invests in agriculture and housing in Cambodia (1;4).

The commune is comprised of six villages, with a total population of 1395 families, corresponding to 6,499 persons. The most affected villages are Tuol Dauntei, and Dom Pdao, with 163 families (1).

Project area:9,800
Level of Investment:unknown
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:6,499
Start of the conflict:21/04/2005
Company names or state enterprises:World Tristar Entertainment (Cambodia) Co. Ltd from Cambodia - agro-industry
So Nguon Group Co., Ltd. from Vietnam - agriculture, construction
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:It is unclear whether any NGO was directly involved in the conflict. The case received attention, however, by various national and international NGOs, such as Cambodian rights group LICADHO, ADHOC, CHRAC, HRTF and the Asian Farmers Association (AFA).

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Land occupation
Official complaint letters and petitions
Street protest/marches
Property damage/arson

Impacts

Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Potential: Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsVisible: Malnutrition, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Other environmental related diseases, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Other Health impactsexposure to toxic herbicides
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Loss of livelihood, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession
Potential: Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures

Outcome

Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Land demarcation
Migration/displacement
Repression
Violent targeting of activists
Development of alternatives:According to an AFA (Asian Farmers Association) study, conducted in 2012, the farmers had the following requests: (copied from (1)):
To the government (of Samdech Prime Minister Hun Sen) at the national, provincial, and district levels: a. Take immediate action to resolve the issue in favor of the villagers. b. Stop the company in taking any more of the villagers’ land.
To the company: a. Return the remaining 2,000 hectares to the villagers as soon as possible in order to resolve the issue. b. Revise its land boundaries to exclude the area the villagers occupy. c. Take the land along the western part of the mountain instead.
To other stakeholders: a. Support and take the cause of the villagers--former soldiers who sacrificed their lives to protect the people and nation; whose only compensation for the services rendered is the plot of land the company is now taking away from them.
To fellow villagers: a. Continue the struggle to get back the remaining 2,000 hectares of their land through legitimate means. b. Continue to appeal for help from stakeholders concerned, especially Samdech Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The project went on. In spite of supposed illegal activities of the company and refusal to return the concession land, the ELC was re-granted in 2011.

Sources & Materials

Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

2005 Subdecree on Economic Land Concessions (ELC) in Cambodia
http://www.cambodiainvestment.gov.kh/sub-decree-146-on-economic-land-concessions_051227.html

Cambodia's land law and related regulatory frameworks
http://www.cambodiainvestment.gov.kh/investors-information/land-site-development.html

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

(1) Petilla 2012. AFA Cases on Large Scale Land Acquisition in Asia. Research Report. (accessed 10/02/2015)
http://asianfarmers.org/afaresearches0876dlsj/2012-10landrights.pdf

(6) CHRAC and HRTF 2010. Still Losing Ground: Forced Evictions and Intimidation in Cambodia. Report prepared by CHRAC (Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee and HRTF (Housing Rights Task Force) (accessed 12/02/2015)
http://www.chrac.org/eng/CHRAC%20Statement%20in%202010/Still%20Losing%20Ground_En_s.pdf

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

(2) Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) Cambodia (accessed 10/02/2012)
http://www.elc.maff.gov.kh

(3) Phnom Penh Post article: "Officials confiscate luxury timber" (accessed 12/02/2015)
http://www.phnompenhpost.com/national/officials-confiscate-luxury-timber

(4) Phnom Penh Post article: "not all economic land concessions listed" (accessed 12/02/2015)
http://www.phnompenhpost.com/national/not-all-economic-land-concessions-listed

(5) News article on the poisoning of villagers through herbicide (accessed 12/02/2015)
http://www.opendevelopmentcambodia.net/news/firm-accused-of-poisoning-villagers-on-revoked-land/

Other documents

Map of the ELC granted to Tristar Source: http://www.songuongroup.com/worldtristar/ (accessed 12/02/2015)
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/webpage_map_001.jpg

Meta information

Contributor:A. Scheidel (ICTA-UAB) / arnim.scheidel "at" gmail.com
Last update25/02/2015

Images

 

Map of the ELC granted to Tristar

Source: http://www.songuongroup.com/worldtristar/ (accessed 12/02/2015)