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Corporate responsibility warranted to protect rights

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Villagers from Koh Kong province came to protest in front of the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction in September, 2020. Hong Menea

Corporate responsibility warranted to protect rights

The Cambodian Centre for Human Rights (CCHR) released a statement on “Business and Human Rights: Corporate Accountability in Land Rights Violations”, dated December 25, to give an overview of the challenges in seeking corporate accountability regarding land rights issues.

According to the press release obtained by The Post on December 27, the CCHR examined various mechanisms available to those facing land rights violations in the country and the methods employed by communities to achieve a resolution.

The press release said CCHR analysed four land disputes – one each in Mondulkiri, Oddar Meanchey, Pursat and Koh Kong provinces – which affected more than 1,800 households.

The disputes are between indigenous communities and rubber company Socfin-KCD in Mondulkiri; between villagers and Mitr Phol Sugar Company in Oddar Meanchey; between villagers and the MDS Company in the MDS Thmor Da Special Economic Zone in Pursat; and between villagers and Koh Kong Sugar Industry Co Ltd and Koh Kong Plantation Co Ltd in Koh Kong.

According to CCHR, systematic violation of land rights is one of the most prevalent human rights issues in Cambodia. A core part of this problem is that it is difficult to hold companies accountable for their human rights impacts.

Businesses across the globe have an impact, directly or indirectly, on virtually all human rights.

CCHR said companies are frequently accused of land grabbing, forced evictions and disrespecting indigenous land rights. As a result of desk and field research, the centre identified nine areas of concern regarding corporate accountability in Cambodia.

It raised 26 recommendations to the government, companies operating in the country and civil society organisations in order to effectively prevent, mitigate and remedy these concerns and to promote a fairer, more transparent and effective land dispute resolution process nationwide.

CCHR business and human rights project coordinator Vann Sophath explained that this report follows and updates an initial report released in 2018.

The report now highlighted the level of corporate accountability that had been achieved with regard to companies that had violated land rights in the country.

“This brief report, which went through in-depth research and comprehensive studies, was discussed among stakeholders. The report is announced publicly and presented to the relevant companies and institutions to seek an appropriate solution for [land grab] victims,” he said.

Government spokesman Phay Siphan urged those affected to resolve land disputes through court proceedings. He claimed that if a case becomes a political issue, there would be no solution.

He said that it is illegal to encroach upon the rightful land of another person.

“Human rights [advocates] should look at the facts, as doing so would indicate who is violating the law.

“If [our intention] is just for gaining personal benefit, it can be considered as a violation of human rights. That is not addressing human rights. It is an attempt to attack the head of government,” he said.

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