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Land grabbing by Rui Feng International in indigenous Kuoy villages, Preah Vihear, Cambodia


Tbeng Meanchey district is comprised of various villages, most of them inhabited by the Kuoy ethnic minority, who are engaged in small-scale farming and the collection of Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFP) from nearby forests. Most villagers live there since the fall of the Khmer Rouge Regime in 1979, which makes them, according to the 2001 Cambodian land law, the legal and legitimate land owners (i.e., they have lived continuously on their land over more than five years before 2001). However, in 2011, in absence of a completed national land management system (1), and other factors among them most likely corruption, two Chinese firms, Lan Feng and Roy Feng International, were granted ELCs on villagers’ land, amounting to 9,015ha and 8,841ha, respectively. Both firms are part of a group of five Chinese companies, registered under the same address. While the legal limit of ELC per company is 10,000ha, the group of all five companies was awarded ELCs amounting to no less than 220,000ha during 2012 (2;6).

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Land grabbing by Rui Feng International in indigenous Kuoy villages, Preah Vihear, Cambodia
State or province:Preah Vihear
Location of conflict:Tbeng Meanchey district
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict: 1st level:Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of conflict: 2nd level :Deforestation
Land acquisition conflicts
Agro-fuels and biomass energy plants
Specific commodities:Land
Project Details and Actors
Project details:

The Economic Land Concession (ELC) held by Chinese company Lan Feng amounts to 9015ha and was granted to the company in 2011.

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Project area:17,856
Level of Investment:unknown
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:2500
Start of the conflict:01/01/2011
Company names or state enterprises:Rui Feng (Cambodia) International from China - sugarcane, agroindustry
Lan Feng International from China - sugarcane, agroindustry
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Ponlok Khmer
Community Legal Education Center (CLEC)
Independent Monks Network (IMN)
Conflict and Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Religious groups
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Land occupation
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Street protest/marches
Property damage/arson
Impacts of the project
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Potential: Air pollution, Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsVisible: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Increase in violence and crime
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Criminalization of activists
Land demarcation
Court decision (undecided)
Negotiated alternative solution
Application of existing regulations
Development of alternatives:The villagers demanded the companies to stop their activities on concession land overlapping with villagers' land. After ongoing conflicts, the local authorities agreed to identify villagers' land by mapping and demarcation through authorities and the community itself. The outcome of this process is not yet clear.
The villagers further filed a lawsuit and demanded the companies to pay a compensation of 600,000$ for the loss of ancestral land, community forests and farming land. It is not clear what happened so far with this lawsuit.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:It is not yet clear, as a final decision has not yet been taken by the authorities. Nevertheless, so far the villagers have played an important role to stop/delay the activities of the companies, which would result in heavy impacts on the environment, related to deforestation and the establishment of industrial large-scale agriculture.
Sources and Materials
Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

2005 Sub-decree on Economic Land Concessions (ELC) in Cambodia
[click to view]

Cambodia's land law and related regulatory frameworks
[click to view]

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

(7) Scheidel A., Giampietro M., Ramos Martin J., 2013. Self-sufficiency or surplus: conflicting local and national development goals in Cambodia. Land Use Policy 34, 342-352.
[click to view]

(1) Thiel 2010. Donor-driven land reform in Cambodia - Property rights, Planning, and land value taxation. Erdkunde Vol 64 (3)
[click to view]

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

(8) Global Witness on Cambodia (accessed 09/02/2015)
[click to view]

(2) News article on the seizing of bulldozers by villagers (accessed 09/02/2015)
[click to view]

(3) Phnom Penh Post article: "preah vihear villagers win small concession" (accessed 09/02/2015)
[click to view]

(4) Phnom Penh Post article: "Crops pulled locals and NGO staff questioned" (accessed 09/02/2015)
[click to view]

(5) Phnom Penh Post article "Monk, NGO staff detained" (accessed 09/02/2015)
[click to view]

(6) Phnom Penh Post article: "Kuoy file suit over 'land grab'" (accessed 09/02/2015)
[click to view]

Other documents

Villagers protest against land clearing Source: (accessed 09/02/2015)
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:A. Scheidel (ICTA-UAB) / arnim.scheidel "at"
Last update09/02/2015
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