Ratanakkiri Indigenous Women Fighting Back Against Illegal Loggers

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Ratanakkiri Indigenous Women Fighting Back Against Illegal Loggers

Post by CEOCambodiaNews » Sat Mar 09, 2019 3:19 pm

Women taking the lead in Cambodia
Chris Hufstader
March 8, 2019
Women all over the world are working hard to carve out a place as leaders alongside men. Oxfam and our partners in Cambodia are helping men and women in environmentally sensitive rural areas to share leadership and decision-making power, and find the best ways to protect the forest, rivers, and other natural resources on which they rely.

The bad news mobilized the small riverside community of Padol: Strangers were cutting trees illegally in the protected forest on the other side of the Sesan River, and the village had to stop them. The indigenous Jarai village elders and the community discussed what to do: Of the proposals, ideas, and comments they heard, those of the women were most reasonable. So the elders put a small group of them in charge of representing the community.

Soon, a determined group of women were crossing the fast-flowing Sesan in boats. “I was not scared,” says Romas Phlul, 48. “I just really wanted to stop them. Even if we did not have a boat, I would have swum across the river to stop them.”

When they arrived, the women asked the three workers if they had any documents showing they had the right to cut the trees, and when they did not, the women seized all their chainsaws and motorbikes and invited them to their village to discuss the matter. The next day, a representative from the “7 January” company that had hired the loggers came and tried to negotiate access to the forest, and resolve the dispute, but he got nowhere with the women of Padol.

“Every time you cut a tree, I will come there to stop you,” one woman told him.

Image
Women and the forest
The indigenous communities of northern Cambodia’s Ratanakiri province are under pressure: More than 10 indigenous groups are now trying to consolidate their communal land in forest areas they can call their own in the face of aggressive government and private company moves to gain control of vast economic land concessions for agribusiness and mining. The government has granted some 20 percent of Ratanakiri’s land to these economic land concessions, more than a quarter million acres, according to research conducted by Oxfam’s allies in Cambodia, including the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights. These concessions have been granted frequently without any consultation with local indigenous communities, a violation of their rights under Cambodia’s land laws and international law.

Indigenous women have a lot at stake. “For centuries, indigenous women have relied on natural resources,” says Dam Chanthy, the director of the Highlander Association and an indigenous Toumpoun woman. “They say ‘the forest is our market’ because they get their vegetables, wood—everything-- in the forest.”

She is with a group of men and women from Padol at a sacred place on an island in the middle of the Sesan, a place of worship for the community, amidst tall trees and next to rapids rushing over and around rocks in the river.

Chanthy says places like this in the forest are important cultural spaces for indigenous people; they are where they worship their ancestors. “Every community has a spirit forest, and it is integral to indigenous culture and life.”

The government has granted some 20 percent of Ratanakiri’s land to economic land concessions, more than a quarter million acres, according to research conducted by Oxfam’s allies in Cambodia, including the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights.

Romas Shyob pilots his boat on the Sesan near his village, Padol. He says the participation of women in protecting the forest and guiding the community is essential. “When there is an opportunity to send people to represent the community, we send women,” he says.

Like most places, men tend to be in charge in these indigenous communities in Ratanakiri. But the Highlander Association (HA), working with grants and other support from Oxfam, is helping communities to question the traditional gender roles that society imposes on men and women. Now, men and women are learning to work together in new ways.

Rather than feeling threatened, men in Padol said they appreciated what the women did that day. “If men had gone to stop the loggers, there might have been violence, and we might not have been able to understand why they came to cut down the forest,” says Rochom Ntol, 43. “But women don’t use violence. They can speak peacefully and learn about the root causes of the problem--that’s why it’s good to have women involved in making decisions and helping to protect our forest lands.”
More here: https://www.oxfamamerica.org/explore/st ... -cambodia/
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Re: Ratanakkiri Indigenous Women Fight Back Against Illegal Loggers

Post by CEOCambodiaNews » Wed Mar 27, 2019 7:07 pm

Cambodia returns land taken from indigenous people in 'unprecedented' move
2 hours ago
Governor of Ratanakari province has asked the agriculture ministry to take out 64 areas from the land concessions that belonged to a dozen indigenous communities in Cambodia.

Cambodia has returned land taken a decade ago from indigenous communities for a Vietnamese company's rubber plantation, a sign that foreign investors are facing greater scrutiny over rights violations, analysts said on Wednesday.

The governor of the northeastern province of Ratanakari on Tuesday asked the agriculture ministry to take out 64 areas from the land concessions, including forests, wetlands and burial grounds that belonged to a dozen indigenous communities.

The decision "represents an unprecedented recognition of indigenous land rights over business interests in Cambodia," said Dam Chanty, executive director of Highlanders Association, an indigenous rights organisation in Ratanakari.

But while the move was "a major victory", the communities still needed compensation and help rehabilitating their land and waterways, she said in a statement.

Since the early 2000s, Cambodia has awarded large swathes of land as concessions to foreign companies for mines, power plants and farms, to spur economic growth and alleviate poverty.

Such deals, which covered more than a tenth of the country's surface area by 2012, have displaced more than 770,000 people, human rights lawyers say.

Following protests and pressure from rights groups, Cambodian Prime Minister HE announced a moratorium on new concessions in 2012, and promised to review old ones.

But land rights activists say the reviews did not lead to significant changes.

Ten years ago, the government gave about 19,000 hectares (73 sq miles) of land belonging to 12 indigenous villages to Vietnamese rubber growers Hoang Anh Gia Lai (HAGL).

The indigenous communities filed a complaint in 2014 over "serious" environmental and social effects with the World Bank's International Finance Corporation (IFC), which had invested in a fund that financed HAGL's ventures in Cambodia and Laos.

A dispute resolution process was set up, and HAGL agreed to stop further land clearances.

A year later, HAGL agreed to return land that was not planted or cleared, and its concessions were reduced by more than 60 percent.

The company, which pulled out of negotiations earlier this year, did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment.

The decision returns a further 742 hectares, according to the Highlanders Association and advocacy groups Equitable Cambodia and Indigenous Rights Active Members, which are representing the communities.

"It has taken more than three years of dialogue and negotiations, but this is an important issue that affects indigenous lives and their traditional rights over land," said Eang Vuthy, executive director of Equitable Cambodia.
https://www.trtworld.com/asia/cambodia- ... move-25296
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Re: Ratanakkiri Indigenous Women Fighting Back Against Illegal Loggers

Post by CEOCambodiaNews » Fri Mar 29, 2019 11:46 pm

BANGKOK – Cambodia has returned land taken a decade ago from indigenous communities for a Vietnamese company's rubber plantation, a sign that foreign investors are facing greater scrutiny over rights violations, analysts said on Wednesday.

The decision "represents an unprecedented recognition of indigenous land rights over business interests in Cambodia," said Dam Chanty, executive director of Highlanders Association, an indigenous rights organisation in Ratanakiri.

But while the move was "a major victory," the communities still needed compensation and help rehabilitating their land and waterways, she said in a statement.

Since the early 2000s, Cambodia has awarded large swathes of land as concessions to foreign companies for mines, power plants and farms, to spur economic growth and alleviate poverty.
Such deals, which covered more than a tenth of the country's surface area by 2012, have displaced more than 770,000 people, human rights lawyers say.
https://www.postguam.com/the_globe/phil ... b2539.html
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Re: Ratanakkiri Indigenous Women Fighting Back Against Illegal Loggers/Land Grabbers

Post by CEOCambodiaNews » Sat May 04, 2019 9:39 pm

Women leaders protecting their land for the next generation
May 3, 2019 By Chris Hufstader
ImageSavann Oeurm/Oxfam America
After an audacious land grab by a foreign company, indigenous women in a remote Cambodian village struggle to regain their farms and sacred sites.

Sol Preng remembers vividly the day in 2012 when bulldozers unexpectedly arrived on her family farm.

“The company came and cleared away our cashew trees right before the harvest,” she says. “I lost four hectares of land and all my cashew trees.”

That would have been Preng’s third year of producing cashew nuts, and she was anticipating a $1,000 harvest. Instead, the 58-year-old lost her trees, her home, and worst of all, she says, “We lost our forest, which was an important source of food. We used to go there in search of mushrooms and other vegetables.”

Nearly everyone in Malik, an indigenous Toumpoun village in Ratanakiri province, was affected. The government granted an 18,952-hectare (46,432 acres) Economic Land Concession to a Vietnamese company called Hoang Anh Gia Lai, which planted rubber trees. The concession covered 400 of Malik’s 942 hectares.

The company destroyed rice fields, community forests, and burial areas, with no warning or consultation. It was a violation of Cambodia’s land laws as well as international laws designed to protect the rights of indigenous people to be consulted about development projects on their land.

Like Preng, Khwas Blov, 48, lost her entire 1.5 hectare cashew farm, plus her banana trees, chickens, and even her home. “My husband was away and I was alone,” she says. “I could not get everything out of my house before it was knocked down and everything destroyed.” She says she had to “just get out before I was run over by a bulldozer.”

“I still feel really angry,” Blov says.

When the dust settled, Blov, Preng, and others, like their friend Khwas Vin, got together to talk. “I was angry with the company, but I did not know what to do,” Preng says. “I wanted compensation for the loss of my cashew harvest and trees.”

Blov says they looked for help. They found the Highlander Association (HA), Oxfam’s partner that specializes in training indigenous people about human rights, and the local and international laws and regulations related to land and natural resources. Its director Dam Chanthy is herself a Toumpoun woman.

After a few meetings with HA, Blov says, “I started to go house to house to recruit women to work together to get our land back.”
Full article: https://www.oxfamamerica.org/explore/st ... eneration/
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Re: Ratanakkiri Indigenous Women Fighting Back Against Illegal Loggers

Post by Duncan » Sun May 05, 2019 7:52 am

The best of all Palestinian luck to them. If these women changed their religion and became Jew's they might get more help. :stir:
Cambodia,,,, Don't fall in love with her.
Like the spoilt child she is, she will not be happy till she destroys herself from within and breaks your heart.
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Re: Ratanakkiri Indigenous Women Fighting Back Against Illegal Loggers

Post by CEOCambodiaNews » Tue Aug 06, 2019 11:26 pm

Who's involved ? What part did the World Bank play ?

Land Returns After Complaint to World Bank Offer Hope to Indigenous Villagers
5 August 2019
[excerpts]
Kak Village was one of 12 ethnic minority villages in Andoung Meas and O’Chum Communes, comprising 1,368 households, who complain their ancestral forests and land used for swidden farming were grabbed by HAGL’s Cambodian subsidiaries when they received a 50,000-hectare economic land concession for rubber from the government in 2009.
A rare victory
Recently, after a decade of hardship, the villagers scored a significant victory when some of their demands for restitution were accepted after they put pressure on the World Bank Group over its financial ties to the [Vietnamese agribusiness giant Hoang Anh Gia Lai ] HAGL.

In March, Rattanakiri Province authorities agreed with HAGL to cut out 64 disputed areas - around 742 hectares - including ‘spirit mountains’, wetlands, traditional hunting areas and burial grounds to the 12 affected communities after years of dialogue and negotiations, according to Equitable Cambodia.

The NGO assisted the villagers and in a statement hailed the decision as “an unprecedented recognition of indigenous land rights over business interests in Cambodia.”

Sev Seun, a community representative from Kak Village, said the villagers were relieved they will regain sacred lands and sizable parts of their farmlands, though years of intransigence on the part of the government and HAGL has tempered expectations.

World Bank Investment
In the HAGL case, Equitable Cambodia assisted the Highlanders Association and the Indigenous Rights Active Members of Cambodia in filing a request in 2014 for a dispute resolution process with the independent watchdog of the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC).

It deals with complaints over social and environmental safeguards’ violations.

The villagers’ complaint is related to the IFC investment in Dragon Capital’s VEIL fund, which bankrolled HAGL’s agribusiness ventures in Cambodia and Laos, Equitable Cambodia said.

The NGO said in March that it also helped villagers file a second complaint because HAGL pulled out of the mediation process before reaching a final agreement with them on issues of land and water rehabilitation and compensation for damages.

The latter complaint is based on IFC’s decisions in 2016 and 2017 to buy equity stakes totaling US $125 million in two other Vietnamese financial institutions, TP Bank and VP Bank.

“The banks then went on to provide financing of more than $200 million dollars to HAGL, specifically to fund its rubber plantations in Cambodia, despite the pending [2014] complaint” against the IFC, Equitable Cambodia said.

Full article: https://www.voacambodia.com/a/land-retu ... 29333.html
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Re: Ratanakkiri Indigenous Women Fighting Back Against Vietnamese Company

Post by CEOCambodiaNews » Sun May 31, 2020 3:26 pm

UPDATE

Vietnam firm with World Bank links accused of bulldozing indigenous land in Cambodia
Rights groups say Hoang Anh Gia Lai cleared the land under the cloak of the pandemic, destroying burial grounds, wetlands and old-growth forest
It had earlier received loans from two private Vietnamese financial institutions that the World Bank’s private-sector arm invested in

Sen Nguyen
Updated: 10:18pm, 29 May, 2020

A Vietnamese conglomerate funded by investment banks with links to the private-sector arm of the World Bank has been accused by activists of bulldozing land in Cambodia that had been earmarked for return to indigenous communities.
Image
A part of the 742-hectare land in the northern province of Ratanakiri was reportedly cleared in March – as Cambodians were told to shelter in place amid the coronavirus pandemic – by Hoang Anh Gia Lai (HAGL), which is owned by a wealthy businessman with interests in property, agriculture, energy and a Vietnamese football club.

“The company bulldozed two spirit mountains, wetlands, traditional hunting areas and burial grounds,” said human rights groups Equitable Cambodia and Inclusive Development International (IDI) in a joint statement released on Monday. “[It] destroyed old-growth forest and caused irreparable harm to land of priceless spiritual value to the communities.”

According to the two groups, the land had been given to HAGL under a concession by the Cambodian government – a claim that has been disputed by local authorities.

In March last year, the governor of Ratanakiri asked Cambodia’s Agriculture, Forests and Fisheries Ministry to officially order HAGL to return the land to the province’s villages of Muoy, Inn, Mas and Kak in the province as it was “improperly included” in the company’s “agricultural land concessions ”.

HAGL – whose headquarters are in Vietnam’s Pleiku city, about 160km from Ratanakiri – received loans from VP Bank and TP Bank, private Vietnamese financial institutions that the World Bank’s International Financial Corporation (IFC) has invested in.

In a statement supplied to This Week in Asia on Wednesday, the IFC said it had no direct financial exposure to HAGL.
“IFC has invested in financial intermediaries – VP Bank and TP Bank – that either used to have or continue to have a commercial relationship with HAGL,” it said, adding that VP Bank did not make any new investments in HAGL since receiving IFC funding, while TP Bank’s exposure to HAGL is limited to financing its operations in Vietnam.

In August 2016, IFC announced a quasi-equity investment in TP Bank of about US$18.35 million in dividend preference shares which would allow the organisation to become one of its shareholders with 4.9 per cent of the bank’s equity capital at the time. About two weeks later, IFC’s first loan of US$50 million to VP Bank was disclosed to the public – part of a maximum US$125 million financing package to help the bank “enhance its support for local enterprises and boost international trade opportunities”, according to a press release.

While confirming that it was aware of the reported land clearances, IFC said in its statement on Wednesday that it was “in the process of verifying facts on the ground”.

“If IFC confirms that a client has not complied with the environmental and social standards we require of our clients, we raise those issues and seek redress,” it said.

Srey Vuthy, a spokesman for Cambodia’s agricultural ministry, told the Phnom Penh Post that there has been some disagreement over the size of the area to be returned to villagers.

He said the ministry would send a team to inspect the area and suggested that all parties – the villagers, HAGL, provincial authorities and the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman, an independent watchdog of the IFC – undertake a review of the situation together.

HAGL was established 27 years ago and now has a market capitalisation of 9.2 trillion dong (US$395.6 million). It also owns the prominent Hoang Anh Gia Lai Football Club – Vietnam’s third-highest valued club according to Transfermarkt, a German soccer specialist website.

HAGL’s head of corporate communications did not respond to two emails requesting comments, while attempts to reach the company through an email address provided on its website were unsuccessful.

Since the early 2000s, large swathes of land, including protected forest areas occupied by local communities, have been allocated by the Cambodian government to domestic and foreign investors as concessions to develop industrial agriculture.

In 2009, the Cambodian government gave about 19,000 hectares of land belonging to 12 separate communities to HAGL. As of March 6, six of its subsidiaries owned a total of 54,191 hectares of land in Ratanakiri province, according to land concession data set released by LICADHO, a Cambodian human rights organisation.

A 2012 moratorium on the granting of new concessions and a promise to review old ones have both failed to resolve long-standing disputes between the companies and affected peoples linked to such concessions, land rights activists said.

“Forced compensation has been used in most of the cases by companies and authorities. Protests are still happening from time to time by the affected people who didn’t accept the solution imposed by the companies and authorities,” said Thun Saray, president of Cambodian human rights organisation ADHOC.

“On paper, there is recognition of indigenous communities’ collective ownership of land, but in practice, there’s not.”
We will keep demanding until we get this place back Sev Seun, Kak villager

Equitable Cambodia Executive Director Eang Vuthy said HAGL had twice pulled out of negotiations with villagers over the Ratanakiri lands and that two complaints had been filed with the IFC’s watchdog.

David Pred, Executive Director of IDI, said advocates were wondering why the company had cleared the land “given that mediations to resolve this protracted conflict had just recommenced at HAGL’s request”.

It is possible that it was an act of retaliation by the management of HAGL’s local subsidiaries against the indigenous communities, he said, though it remains unclear what part, if any, their parent company played.

Eang said that while the company had offered villagers jobs such as clearing weeds and rubber tapping for a wage of US$5 a day, these would be performed on land that actually belonged to the community.

Given that representatives of Muoy, Inn, Mas and Kak villages had approached the Cambodian government and sought reassurances that HAGL would not be able to take control of the land, Eang questioned why there had been no effort made to stop the clearances. IDI said it now appeared the land was being prepared for the planting of some kind of crops.

Sev Seun of Kak village, who used to raise cattle and grow vegetables on the land, said he felt despondent but would press on to ensure villagers’ rights were protected.

“We will keep demanding until we get this place back. If the company refuses to return [the land], we will continue to protest. If the company grows anything at this location, we will pull it out,” he said through an interpreter.
https://www.scmp.com/print/week-asia/he ... bulldozing
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Re: Ratanakkiri Indigenous Women Fighting Back Against Illegal Loggers

Post by CEOCambodiaNews » Wed Jun 24, 2020 8:35 am

Vietnamese rubber giant razes indigenous lands as Cambodian government grapples with legacy land issues
11 June 2020
No easy way out

In response to rallies staged in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh, the government introduced a moratorium on new economic land concessions in 2012 and pledged to review concessions previously handed out. However, earlier land deals, such as HAGL’s, have left a legacy of unresolved land disputes that continue to cause tensions to this day, said Mighty Earth’s Oram.

“The role of the government now is to instruct provincial authorities, local communities and local civil society as well as HAGL to return to the negotiation table and lock in the agreement that had previously been reached. And they must ensure that process happens swiftly before more land can be cleared,” he said. “But I expect it will take time and that things will move very slowly, unfortunately. I just hope they move in the right direction.”

Indigenous groups have urged the government to expedite the registration of collective land to help them stave off land-grabbers. But land titling in the country has been sluggish and rife with legal hurdles while burdening communities with inhibitive fees. At the current pace, it has been estimated it could take another 25 years for all remaining parcels to be registered.

With rubber demand forecast to soar in the coming decades, Cambodia’s government urgently needs to rethink its development model and put local people at the front and centre, experts say. “As indigenous people, we are not opposed to development. But we would like to have fair development that respects our lands, our culture and our community,” the Highland Association’s spokesperson told Eco-Business.
https://www.eco-business.com/news/vietn ... nd-issues/
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