This press release, copies of the Vietnam Rubber Group decision and details on how to use the complaints mechanism are all available in English, Vietnamese, Lao and Khmer at the bottom of the page.
Vietnam’s state-owned rubber giant, Vietnam Rubber Group (VRG), has announced steps to reform how it does business in neighbouring Cambodia and Laos, in response to requests by Global Witness and local groups for the company to respect national laws and citizens’ rights.
The new measures mean that communities who are affected by VRG’s plantations can now lodge formal complaints or enquiries with VRG. Previously there was no system that would allow people to interact with the company in this way.
“We strongly welcome moves by VRG to improve communication with communities affected by its plantations in Cambodia and Laos,” said Megan MacInnes of Global Witness. “These steps fall short of addressing all of the problems with the company’s plantations, but if properly implemented they could represent an unprecedented move by a rubber company towards delivering justice for citizens whose land and livelihoods have been taken from them.”
Rubber is a booming trade in the Mekong region, but is one of the least regulated land-based commodities globally. This legal vacuum is fuelling a land grabbing crisis in Cambodia and Laos that has shown no sign of abating for half a decade. Global Witness’ 2013 Rubber Barons report revealed how VRG and another of Vietnam’s biggest rubber companies, Hoang Anh Gia Lai (HAGL), were striking deals with the Lao and Cambodian governments for huge tracts of land without first gaining permission from the people who lived on it, or compensating them for it.
VRG is a significant player in the region. According to company data, its land concessions in Cambodia cover nearly 150,000 hectares – an area almost as large as London or Manila. In Laos the company presides over almost 19,000 hectares.
Since the release of Rubber Barons, VRG and its member companies have been piloting a community consultation scheme which has seen a number of communities receive money for farmland or trees lost to the companies’ plantations. VRG is now rolling this scheme out across all of its twenty-one plantations in Cambodia and Laos.
The company’s most recent announcement commits it to resolving the issues raised in citizen’s complaints or enquiries, and responding directly within 30 days. Individuals, communities or groups representing them can submit these either in person or via post at VRG’s local offices or at company headquarters in the capitals Phnom Penh and Vientiane. Global Witness will be working with local organisations to monitor and evaluate this system over the next two years.
“The test now will be whether communities receive a fair resolution to their complaints. This should include financial compensation as well as alternative livelihoods to those lost as a result of VRG’s operations,” said MacInnes. “These new measures are a step in the right direction but we remain deeply concerned about the continued illegal logging and land clearance taking place in and around VRG’s plantations. We will continue to watch the company closely.”
For further information about Global Witness’ previous engagement with VRG and HAGL, please refer to our website: http://www.globalwitness.org/rubberbarons/
Contact: Josie Cohen, [email protected]
or Alice Harrison [email protected] +44 (0)7841 338792