Vietnam rubber giant to address issues raised by displaced communities

Vietnam rubber giant to address issues raised by displaced communities
A large area of land in Laos has been given over to rubber plantations under concessions awarded to large companies.

The state-owned Vietnam Rubber Group (VRG) will directly resolve all issues raised by villagers affected by its plantations in Laos and Cambodia, Thanh Nien News reported.

The report by the news agency, which is run by Vietnam's Youth Association, referred to Global Witness' requests that VRG improve its communication with communities affected by the company's plantations in the two countries.

Global Witness is a British non-government organisation, which investigates the financial dimensions of corruption and resource extraction.

Communities affected by VRG's plantations are now able to lodge formal complaints or inquiries with the firm.

Previously, there was no system in place to allow people to interact with the company, Global Witness stated.

The move by VRG came after Global Witness released its 'Global Witness' 2013 Rubber Barons Report', which claimed the company and other big Vietnamese rubber companies such as Hoang Anh Gia Lai (HAGL), struck deals with the Lao and Cambodian governments for huge tracts of land without compensation or permission from the people who lived on them.

Deputy General Director of VRG Le Minh Chau told the news website, Dat Viet, that the group had taken steps to reform its business operations in Laos and Cambodia but said this effort did not represent an admission that all of Global Witness' claims about VRG were true.

VRG is a significant player in plantations investment in both Laos and Cambodia. 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 oversees almost 19,000 hectares.

Following Global Witness' release of its Rubber Barons Report, VRG and its subsidiaries launched a community consultation pilot programme, which compensated displaced individuals for farmland or trees claimed by VRG plantations.

VRG said they were now enacting the pilot programmes at all 21 of its plantations in Cambodia and Laos.

According to Global Witness, the company said it was committed to directly resolving all the issues raised through citizen complaints and inquiries within 30 days of receiving them.

I ndividuals and communities or the groups representing them can submit claims either in person or via post to VRG's local branch offices or company headquarters in Phnom Penh and Vientiane.

Global Witness said it would be working with local organisations to monitor and evaluate this system over the next two years.

Land disputes as a result of land concessions have been an ongoing issue in Laos in recent years, with displaced villagers having complained about unfair amounts of compensation.

Many have also claimed that the places to which they had been relocated had insufficient conditions and facilities to allow them to make a living.

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