Press Release from Inclusive Development International: https://www.inclusivedevelopment.net/forcibly-displaced-cambodians-file-historic-lawsuit-against-asias-largest-sugar-producer/
2 April 2018, Thailand:
Displaced farmers from Cambodia have filed a landmark class-action lawsuit against the Thai sugar giant Mitr Phol. Cambodian communities suffering from human rights violations in one of the Thai investments – Mitrphol Group, the sugar giant, has sought remedies and compensation in Thailand. The alleged human rights abuses stem from land grab and forced evictions in sugar plantations in Oddarmanchey province. The suit demands compensation from the company, as the plaintiffs claimed their homes were burnt down and their lands were taken for granting concessions to Mitrphol.
In 2014, a complaint from 600 families who lost their lands due to sugar plantation concessions has been filed to the National Human Rights Commission Thailand (NHRCT). The NHRCT issued an official investigation report and demanded Mitrphol to provide compensation and engage the affected communities in remediation. The investigation has acknowledges intense human rights violations in Oddarmanchey and suggested the Company to provide compensation and remedies to the affected communities. Due to mounting public pressures from both Kohkong and Oddarmanchey case, Mitrphol withdrew from the sugar business in Cambodia in 2015. Later in May 2016, the experiences of the Oddarmanchey case has resulted in the enactment of regulation to monitor extraterritorial obligation of Thai investors abroad- the Cabinet Resolution on Thai overseas investment.
Today, the impacted communities took Mitrphol to Thai court for remedies and justice. This is the first ever class-action lawsuit filed in the Thai courts by complainants from another country for harmful acts committed outside of Thailand. In Thailand, Community Resources Centre Foundation (CRC) and The Legal Rights and Environmental Protection Association (LEPA) and have been supporting communities to file the lawsuits in an attempt to demand justice. Although the Company withdrew from the concession in 2015, the withdrawal does not address any issues; nor compensation and remedies provided to the impacted communities.
We, the Extraterritorial Obligation Watch Coalition*, express our strongest support to the communities filing lawsuit against Mitrphol and those who seek compensation and remedies from the Thai investment abroad over alleged human rights violations. We demand Mitrphol to seek consultation with the impacted communities immediately and set up a mechanism to discuss remediation and compensation with the directly affected communities.
Moreover, we call for the Thai companies investing abroad to respect community’s rights to natural resources, rights to compensation and remedies as reflected in both domestic regulation (such as the Cabinet Resolution issued May 2015 (resulted from Dawei SEZ case) and May 2016 (resulted from Oddarmanchey sugar case) on extraterritorial obligation of Thai investors abroad) and international law and best practices standards such as the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights or the UNGP, Framework of Human Rights and Environment by UN Special Rapporteur and the General Comment No. 24 ICESCR on extraterritorial obligation of transnational companies. Lastly, we demand for the Thai companies overseas to conduct human rights assessment and human rights due diligence in their businesses.
The ETO Watch conducted a research to assess and analyze practices of the Thai investors abroad and their commitment to extraterritorial obligations. The research showed that the root cause of human rights violations stem from poor commitment of Thai investors in public participation and inclusive participation of the direct affected communities, lack of acknowledgement of the community’s rights to free-prior-and-informed-consent (FPIC) and the lack of compliance to human rights principles and best practices standards. Our experiences in human rights and policy advocacy in outbound investments and accountability have demonstrated that without the full compliance to human rights principles and conducting human rights due diligence, Thai companies will be facing more challenges in their businesses which including pressure and protests from CSOs and communities and also opposition to projects which may ultimately lead to the cancellation in the end.
Lastly, we call the Thai investors to compile with human rights and conduct human rights due diligence in their investment overseas and disclose the information in public domain. Thai investors abroad must provide compensation to the affected communities and remediation.
*The ETO Watch Coalition is a coalition of Thai and International NGOs, working to stop human rights violations, environmental damages and social impacts caused by Thailand’s outbound investments. Key members include Spirits in Education Movement, the Mekong Butterfly, International Rivers, Community Resources Centre Foundation and EarthRights International. There are approximately six to eight NGO members in the coalition. The coalition covers approximately 12 case projects and directly monitors five operative projects in Myanmar and the Mekong region.