Our Cases

Our Cases

Cases across Cambodia

From the dense urban center of Phnom Penh, to isolated areas of the countryside, Equitable Cambodia’s dedicated team is deeply involved in high-stakes land rights cases across the country. This page provides an opportunity for us to share the details and outcomes of our major cases, and raise awareness of the ongoing land-rights issues facing many Cambodians today.

The Sugar Case

The sugar industry in Cambodia was booming, in large part due to a favorable trade program with the European Union meant to aid developing countries. But who reaped the profits from the harvest and export of Cambodia’s sugarcane?

The answer is decidedly not agricultural workers, rural village residents, or average Cambodians. Money made from Cambodian sugar has gone to multinational corporations, Cambodian elites, and banks – while Cambodian farmers were stripped of their land and subjected to numerous human rights abuses as these companies continue to run their businesses without taking responsibility.

EC’s work with families displaced by companies growing sugar to advocate for fair and just remedies has garnered international attention and action. EC’s main work on the Sugar Case is in three provinces of Cambodia, Oddar Meanchey, Kampong Speu and Koh Kong provinces.

For more information about the Sugar Case click here.

The Rubber Case

After gaining  land concessions from the Cambodian government, the Vietnamese Hoang Anh Gia Lai rubber company moved into the rural communities of Ratanakiri province in northeastern Cambodia, transforming the land from indigenous farms and sacred forests into rubber plantations.

The farmers and indigenous people who once called this rural and naturally beautiful area home were forcibly removed from their land and livelihoods, and deprived of food security, access to water, and their traditional ways of life. In most cases, no compensation was paid. Today, HAGL occupies 47,370 hectares of land in the province, nearly five times the legal limit individual corporations are allowed to hold in Cambodia.

In 2013, Equitable Cambodia began working with the local communities and other organizations to raise awareness about the widespread human rights abuses perpetrated by HAGL and its subsidiaries, and has drawn attention to the company’s numerous international backers, including the International Finance Corporation (IFC).

Equitable Cambodia is currently representing 12 villages affected by HAGL’s concession in an ongoing dispute resolution process mediated by the Compliance Advisory Ombudsman (CAO) of the IFC, a process initiated by a complaint sent to the CAO on behalf of the communities by EC and its partners.

For more information about the Rubber Case click here.

The Railway Case

Since the Khmer Rouge era Cambodia's railways laid abandoned and in disrepair. In many of the cities that the old colonial tracks crossed, families built homes on the abandoned land, and have lived there for decades.

With more than $100 million in loans and aid from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Australian Agency for International Development (AusAid), Cambodia moved to restore its rail system – but for the families that have long called the tracks home, the process has been traumatic.

Re-settlement efforts have left more than 5,000 people impoverished, moving them far from their previous homes or sources of employment and schools for their children. Thousands more have also been negatively impacted by the rail project.

EC’s Development Watch program has supported families affected by the Railway Project  through complaints to the ADB’s Compliance Review Panel (CRP), and continues to monitor ABD’s remedial action plan. Our Community Organizing and Housing Rights Program team is currently working diligently with communities living along the railway in Phnom Penh to strengthen grassroots organizing to allow these citizens to advocate for themselves against any future eviction.

For more information about the Railway Case click here.

The Airport Case

In July 2012, families in three villages living around Phnom Penh International Airport were served with eviction notices with no prior warning ordering families to move 10 meters away from the airport’s fence within seven days. Despite many residents possessing multiple documents establishing ownership rights, they were informed they would be evicted without compensation to accommodate a project to expand Phnom Penh International Airport. Instead of giving in to the pressure to move, communities affected by the “Airport Project” have actively protested their eviction.
Equitable Cambodia supported communities affected by the Airport Project through the filing of a complaint on behalf of the communities with the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (CAO) in 2010 and supporting them in the dispute resolution process that followed. It also supports community-based advocacy.

For more information about the Airport Case click here.

Past Cases:

The BouengKak Case

In 2007, the Royal Government of Cambodia leased 133 hectares of prime real estate in the center of Phnom Penh to the private company Shukaku Inc., for 99 years.

The leased area at the time included the 90- hectare BoeungKak Lake, home to more than 4000 poor and middle class families. Many of the families have strong legal claims to this land under Cambodian Land Law, but these rights have been ignored. Families started facing intimidation to leave their homes in August 2008 when the company started filling the lake as part of their development plans.

Many have been worn down by pervasive intimidation from authorities or forced to leave due to deliberate flooding of their homes by the company. A strong community led by women, the BoeungKak community has been active in advocating for their rights to be respected.

Our team at EC supports the BoeungKak community by monitoring their demonstrations, providing training on advocacy strategies and negotiation, collecting community statistics related to land measurements and valuations, organizing ownership documentation for negotiation with authorities and helping community representatives build and maintain community solidarity. We also foster partnerships with local and international organizations to raise awareness, lobby stakeholders and increase advocacy for the case.

For more information about the BouengKakCase click here.