Company’s Tricks to Cover Story of Blood Sugar
March 5, 2015, 8:51 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Company’s Tricks to Cover Story of Blood Sugar

West of Kompong Speu provincial town, a stretch of tarmac road winds its way from Highway 5 northward towards a sugar plantation owned by a powerful senator from the ruling Cambodian People’s Party. Near the end of the tarmac road that crawls along the embankment of a reservoir appears a sign of its builder cemented to the water gate that reads: “A Gracious Gift of His Excellency Neak Okkha Ly Yong Phat.”

However, deep inside Amlaing Commune in Thpong District close to the mountain where the sugar plantation is located, villagers only show faces that bear a sense of betrayal. Unlike the gift from the senator, nothing is gracious here since the villagers’ ancestral farmland was bulldozed and taken over by the company.

For the last three years, people said they had hardly made ends meet from farming on the highland rice fields that the company had swabbed with their old land that had been turned into the sugar plantation.

Kong Uon, 77, Chief of Amlaing Commune’s Kork Village, said the people there had farmed on their old land for 200 or 300 years and would have enough to eat.

“With the new development, it has turned people’s lives from bad to worse,” he said.

Kong Uon said 98 families had been affected as more than 100 hectares of their farm land had been taken over by the Phnom Penh Sugar Company.

He said the company then made a deal by swapping the villagers’ farmland with another disputed highland near the mountain. Unlike their old land which has two canals as source of water, the villagers said they could hardly do rice farming on the land swapped by the company as there was no source of water.

In 2010, an Economic Land Concession covering an area of 10,000 hectares in Kompong Speu province’s Thbong District was granted to Kompong Speu Sugar Co. Ltd. And Phnom Penh Sugar, both owned by Kim Heang, wife of CPP Senator Ly Yong Phat.

For Hay Morn, 63, and some other villagers, they had lost their land altogether after they refused to take the land swapped by the company.

“We had farmed rice on my old land since the generation of my grandfather,” she said, showing her toothless mouth.

“They bulldozed my rice field and only a big mango tree is left.”

Without any choice, Hay Morn said she was forced to work for the company on its sugarcane plantation in order to survive. She said she had to wake up at 5 o’ clock in the morning and go to work till 5 o’clock in the afternoon.

“Working for the company, we don’t have time to rest,” she said, adding that she earned only about 2 dollars due to her old age.

She said her brothers and sisters had also lost their land to the sugarcane plantation company. “It’s very unjust,” she lamented with tears in her eyes.

Phal Vannak, a 27-year-old representative who had lost an eye to a bomb blast during Cambodia’s civil war, said he volunteered to help his fellow villagers regardless of the fact that he did not have any land himself.

“The company has forced people to swap their land with land far away near the mountain,” he said.

After the European Parliament had denounced the crackdown on the villagers calling the product produced by the company “blood sugar,” Vannak said the company had employed a new trick by using military commander to sue the villagers on its behalf.

On December 27, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen came to the sugarcane plantation to inaugurate the sugar processing factory there.

He said security was tight and villagers had been told not to raise their complaints about the company with the prime minister.

Kong Uon said he had met with the district officials several times and had made repeated appeal to the authority and the company to return the land to the villagers. However, he said the officials would make hollow promises.

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