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Rubber Company Suspends Projects as World Bank Investigates

A rubber plantation at Rattanakiri province.
A rubber plantation at Rattanakiri province.

A World Bank-supported rubber company accused of land grabs has suspended some of its projects, as an investigation by the bank continues.

The Hoang Anh Gia Lai company, which received support from the bank’s International Finance Corporation, said in a decision following an April 2 meeting that it has halted some operations.

Nguyen Van Su, general director for the company, said in a decision following the April meeting that operations in three projects in Ratanakkiri province will be suspended from May 1 through Nov. 30.

“During the reclamation suspending period, the subsidiaries are only allowed to tidy up and to collect the branches of trees in the already reclaimed areas prior to April 28, 2014,” the decision says.

Seventeen different indigenous groups filed suit with the World Bank’s Compliance Advisor Ombudsman, claiming the company was forcing them off their land and destroying protected forests.

The tribes say some 2,000 families could be affected by a concession granted to the company, which has begun clearing some 47,000 hectares of land in the province.

Sal Hneuy, a representative of the hill tribes, told VOA Khmer by phone from Ratanakkiri that the decision did not go far enough and has allowed some operations to continue.

“They’ve temporarily stopped work without giving the communities any information or anything to look at,” he said, adding that he wants a signed agreement between the company and the communities.

The tribes want their land back, he said.

Eang Vuthy, executive director at Equitable Cambodia, an NGO that helped the groups file their complaint with the World Bank office, welcomed the suspension, but said a “full stop” of clear cutting needs to be in place.

“Practically, we see the good intentions of the company in suspending the reclamation of over 13 communities and in continued talks, but we want the company to continue ceasing activities completely in all [25] of the communities,” he said.

Meanwhile, the CAO continues to assess the complaints, after which it will bring all sides together and make recommendations for resolving the dispute.