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Indigenous people in Mondulkiri disappointed with the French court’s rejection of their lawsuits

Unofficial translation

Indigenous people in Mondulkiri Province express frustration with the French court’s dismissal of their previous lawsuit against Bolloré and ordered them to pay a fine of over 20,000 euros to the parent company.

The disappointment comes after a court in Paris, France, on July 2 dismissed a lawsuit filed by an indigenous group in Mondulkiri Province and ordered more than 20,000 euro payments to the French Bolloré.

In 2019, nine indigenous representatives sued in a French court after filing a lawsuit in 2015 against Bolloré, a major donor to three companies, including Coviphama, Varanasi and Setheikola, but the three companies sold shares to Socfin.

In a statement issued by the Bunong community of Mondulkiri Province on July 14, 2021, 97 families called the decision of the Nanterre court in Paris “unfair and unacceptable.”

Indigenous groups said in a statement that they could not accept the French court’s ruling that the Bunongs in Busra had no right to occupy the land under Cambodia’s laws. They call such arguments in violation of Cambodian land law and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

According to the statement, Bolloré, the current owner of Socfin in Cambodia, has invested in rubber plantations on the plantations and spiritual forests of the indigenous people of Bunong from 2008 to the present.

The same source claimed that after receiving the investment right, the company cleared the forest, the spiritual forests, taboo forests, and the daily food source of the indigenous people without settling compensation for them.

In addition to the forest clearing, 15 communities have been sued in court and some are still in custody because the company has sued them after they protested against the clearing of land and the forest on which they depend.

Mondulkiri Indigenous Community Network Land and Forestry Human Rights Coordinator Kreung Tola said they and their lawyers had already appealed Nanterre’s decision to the Court of Appeal, hoping that the supreme court will help find justice for them.

“We hope that the Court of Appeal in France will judge, refer to indigenous-related laws and consider international law,” he said. So we will receive fair because our people are definitely victimized; we are the real owners of the land, not like the French court we are not the people living in Busra commune, Pichreda district, Mondulkiri. So we can not accept their rejection.”

ADHOC Community Empowerment Program Officer Pen Bunnar considers the French court’s decision to be unfair to indigenous peoples. On the other hand, the factors that lead to indigenous peoples suffering like this, he said, are because the government provides economic land concessions to companies without studying the impact on the people.

“That’s right,” he said. Each concession must have an impact study! And it is clear that our leaders have said not to trade rubber trees for the dense forest, so we see that it is contrary to the government’s commitment to providing economic concessions not to affect dense forest and semi-dense forest, especially indigenous areas, forest land, and burial areas! “And it not only affects the forest, but it also affects the ancestral traditions that they have preserved for years.”

Mr. Pen Bunnar urged the Cambodian government to study, research and address the impact on the people before deciding to grant land concessions to any company to develop so that people do not suffer further.

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