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Investigate land-grabbers in Cambodia and remove their trade privileges

Investigate land-grabbers in Cambodia and remove their trade privileges


Why this is important

Four years ago, hired thugs walked into my village and threw me off my land.

Their bosses make so much money from growing sugarcane, that they just take whatever land they want -- and they decided they wanted mine. They burned down my house, and threatened me with guns when I tried to stop them from tearing down my home -- all while my eight children looked on. Trucks full of soldiers and hundreds of policemen watched on while my house was completely burnt down with everything inside. They didn't leave until there was nothing left.

But I didn't give up. Even though I was five months pregnant, I went 250km to Phnom Penh to fight for my family's rights. But rather than finding help, I was arrested and held in prison for eight months. It was the most difficult time of my life. I was locked up day and night, and not given medicine or enough food to produce milk for my new baby. They only released me when I finally agreed to withdraw all claims to my land in exchange for a replacement plot of land, then they kicked me and my newborn baby to the street.

I never got that replacement land.

I have no home now, and I have to live with one of my children. I have no land to grow rice and no way to make money. That is all I want -- I just want my land back for growing rice and crops so she can look after my family.

-- Hoy Mai, Bos Village

Like Hoy Mai, hundreds of thousands of Cambodian farmers have been forcibly displaced from their land. This massive theft of land and life is being subsidised by a European Union trade scheme that sees private firms growing fat on profits while Cambodian families lose their land and homes.

The EU trade scheme that is supposed to assist the world's poorest countries is in fact rewarding greedy companies that have impoverished whole communities. EU trade schemes have been suspended over human rights abuses before, and the EU Trade Commissioner has already acknowledged these abuses in Cambodia, but he is still wavering on launching investigations or revoking trade benefits from the perpetrators. Pressure from local and international organisations is pushing him to the edge, and insiders say a surge of international support would tip the EU into action.

Hoy Mai has lost her land and her livelihood, but she is fighting on. We can help Mai get her land back and stop other innocent families from having to watch their houses burn to the ground -- sign the petition to Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht to stop companies that steal land and destroy lives from getting privileged access to the European market.

Posted December 1, 2012
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