Hundreds of thousands of Cambodian small-scale farmers have been forcibly displaced by private firms that have been granted large scale land concessions for agro-industrial plantations in the last decade. Stripped of their land, crops and productive base, affected families have been forced to make a choice: toil on the big plantations growing sugarcane, cassava and rubber for irregular wages or starve. Those who resist have been thrown in jail and sometimes shot dead by armed forces contracted by the companies to forcibly evict villages lying within their land concessions. Appalled? Well, get this...
The European Union is subsiding these crimes by granting the perpetrators preferential access to the European market under the trade scheme Everything But Arms (EBA). This initiative is intended to benefit poor countries and assist their development by allowing them to sell their goods in Europe without quotas or tariffs. In Cambodia, however, the EBA is having the opposite effect with respect to agro-industrial investment and trade. This industry has uprooted and impoverished a significant segment of the Cambodian population, while the benefits have remained concentrated in the hands of a business and political elite.
EU regulations call for the withdrawal of trade preferences from products tied to serious and serious human rights abuses. Cambodian civil society groups have been calling upon the EU to investigate the abuses and revoke trade benefits from companies that steal people's land and abuse their rights. So far, the EU Trade Commissioner has refused to heed their call.
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