The UK firm says it will continue to try to use leverage to get compensation from local suppliers.
Tate & Lyle has been accused of betraying 200 families in Cambodia who struggled for years to get compensation for land allegedly taken from them to make way for a sugar plantation. Residents of Koh Kong, Cambodia, claim that when their land was taken from them in a process that started in 2006, their livelihoods and the future of their children were lost. Seven years ago, the Guardian interviewed affected communities who explained how they had no choice but to work on a plantation run by the KSL Community of Thailand without agricultural land. People who worked for KSL in Cambodia said they earned just 79 pence a day by cutting 1,000 sugarcane stalks a day, and among those who worked were children as young as nine. Later, KSL refuted the claims of using child labour and said a fair salary was earned by its workers. In 2013, 200 families from the Sre Ambel district filed a complaint at the High Court in London against Tate & Lyle, claiming that Tate & Lyle knew – or should have learned – of the claims against its supplier. They demanded compensation for the value of the sugar grown on land they still claim they own. Long talks followed, and the families say they were led to believe that Tate & Lyle could expect substantial compensation. “We originally believed that Tate & Lyle respected human rights and we hoped that they would take responsibility,” said Ann Haiya, a Koh Kong community leader. “The community is very, very angry and hopeless, but they will maintain their determination to work with community leaders to continue fighting Tate & Lyle,” he added. In a statement, Martyn Day, senior partner at Leigh Day law firm, which is Leigh Day. Through many trips to Cambodia and meetings with various stakeholders, including the Cambodian government, the company said it had placed pressure on its supplier for seven years “through many trips to Cambodia and meetings with different stakeholders, including the Cambodian government.” Since 2011, Tate & Lyle has been using KSL Group for its Cambodian supplies and stopped buying sugar from the country in 2013. Under a government-listed group, 200 families each got 1.5 hectares of land from KSL Group.
Many were forced to quickly sell their compensation land because they desperately needed to pay off debts they had accrued during the ordeal. “We used to grow rice on our land and harvest cashew, mango and jackfruit – some of which we sell, some of which we use,” Ann says. He says he lost 13.5 hectares of land in 2006. He, like others, has lost 13.5 hectares of land to buy food and pay for basic needs such as medical care.