Rubber Baron (Global Witness)

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Category: Business and Industry

Date Submitted: 05/16/2013 04:31 PM

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Cambodia and Laos are in the grip of a land grabbing crisis, driven by Vietnamese ‘rubber barons’. This report reveals how two of Vietnam’s largest companies, Hoang Anh Gia Lai (HAGL) and the Vietnam Rubber Group (VRG), have leased vast tracts of land for plantations in Laos and Cambodia, with disastrous consequences for local communities and the environment. Close ties to corrupt political and business elites provide them with impunity, deals are cloaked in secrecy and they are bankrolled by international finance such as Deutsche Bank and the International Finance Corporation (IFC). The huge pressure for land to plant rubber is driven by high prices and soaring international demand, especially from China. As the third-largest producer of rubber globally, Vietnam is a key global player, and HAGL and VRG dominate its domestic production. With limits on the land available at home, both companies have turned to neighbouring Cambodia and Laos. The governments in Cambodia and Laos are allocating large areas of land and ignoring laws designed to protect human rights and the environment. By the end of 2012, 2.6 million hectares of land in Cambodia had been leased, 1.2 million of this for rubber. Twenty percent of this land has been allocated to just five of Cambodia's most powerful tycoons – simply the latest example of how the country’s valuable natural resources have been captured by an elite growing spectacularly rich while one third of the population lives on less than US$0.61 a day. Meanwhile, in Laos, at least 1.1 million hectares has been given to land concessionaires in a process marked by lack of consultation and forced evictions. The negative impact of VRG and HAGL’s activities is hard to overstate. Often the first people know about either company being given their land is when the bulldozers arrive. Families affected are impoverished, face food and water shortages and get little or no compensation. Indigenous minority peoples’...