New complaint challenges Thai company’s membership in sustainable sugar group

Source: Inclusive Development International | February 19, 2016

 

Inclusive Development International and two Cambodian partners fileda com­plaint with the global sugar industry group Bonsucro for re-­admitting Thai sugar giant Mitr Phol Group despite the fact that thousands of fam­ilies forced off their land to make way for the company’s for­mer plantations in Cambodia have yet to receive redress.

Bonsucro was founded in 2008 to oversee sugar industry standards.  The organization confers a stamp of approval on its members, who commit to uphold the law, respect human rights and protect the environment in the production of sugarcane.  Bon­sucro readmitted Mitr Phol Group (MPG) – one of Coca-Cola’s top three global suppliers – late last year.  Mitr Phol had resigned from the group in 2012 before Bonsucro could investigate a complaint made the previous year regarding human rights vi­olations on the company’s three sugarcane plantations in Oddar Meanchey province.

Objecting to Mitr Phol’s readmission,  Inclusive Development Interna­tional, Licadho and Equitable Cambodia filed a new complaint with Bon­sucro on Friday.

“Based on these three illegal [plantations], MPG committed nu­merous, grave violations of Bon­sucro’s objectives and principles, Cambodian law and its international human rights responsibilities,” the complaint reads. “In plain terms, MPG ser­iously deepened the impoverishment and suffering of a large number of already very poor people, and now MPG has a responsibility to do everything within its power to remedy the damage it caused.”

In October 2015, after a two year investigation, Mitr Phol was found by the Thai Human Rights Commission to be responsible for violating international obligations and rights of victims in Cambodia, who saw their land seized, homes destroyed and livestock killed to make way the company’s plantations between 2008-2009.  The victims have yet to be compensated or rehabilitated by the company.   The Commission found that, although MPG has since ceased its operations in Cambodia and relinquished its economic land concessions there, the company has an ongoing responsibility to provide compensation and other appropriate remedies for the losses and human rights impacts suffered by people in Bos, O’Bat Moan, Taman, Trapaing Veng and Ktum villages as a direct result of its previous business activities.

Two weeks after the Commission issued its findings, Bonsucro granted Mitr Phol its 2015 Sustainability Award “for its commitment to sustainably grow business together with cane growers, communities and the environment.”

In a letter accompanying the com­plaint, David Pred, the managing director of Inclusive Develop­ment International, expressed outrage that Mitr Phol was readmitted to Bonsucro and then granted an award for sustainability.

“It maddens me that an organization that purports to maintain ‘the most credible global production standard for sugarcane’ is willing to readmit as a member a company that engaged in grand theft of land and forests that thousands of people depended upon for their survival, burned down entire villages leaving hundreds of families homeless, and was an accomplice to the persecution of those who dared to protest their dispossession,” he writes.   The award, he said, represented  “a profound affront to the families that were left destitute so that Mitr Phol could extract a profit.”

“Unless Bonsucro is ready to se­riously address this case and use its lev­erage to deliver meaningful re­dress to the long suffering families in Oddar Meanchey whom Mitr Phol robbed, it will be utterly discredited as a sugarcane certification body.”

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