Vietnamese firms 'carrying out land grabs in Cambodia and Laos'
The Guardian in Bangkok and Phnom Penh
Two Vietnamese firms bankrolled by Deutsche Bank and the International Finance Corporation - the World Bank's private lending arm - are leading a wave of land grabs in Cambodia and Laos, causing widespread evictions, illegal logging and food insecurity, claims a report.
The study, by the watchdog Global Witness, names two of Vietnam's biggest companies, the privately owned Hoàng Anh Gia Lai (HAGL) and state-owned Vietnam Rubber Group (VRG), as the businesses behind the land grabs. It claims they are working with the explicit support of the Cambodian and Laotian governments, which have authorised the land developments.
Global Witness researched land deals between the two governments and the firms, and found that HAGL and VRG had together been handed more than 200,000 hectares of land, including protected forest with rosewood, in which to grow rubber.
Land was often sold without villagers' consent or knowledge and without compensation, the report alleges. Families were forced off land or expected to work for the rubber plantation.
Villagers in Laos and Cambodia have told of threats. "They invaded our rice fields," said one villager in Laos who lost her land to a HAGL concession.
"I went to stop them and told them: 'Do not bulldoze our rice fields' ... They said: 'Why should we stop? The government granted them to us'," she said.
Global Witness says HAGL and VRG's operations in Cambodia and Laos are being funded, either directly or indirectly, by Deutsche Bank and the IFC.
In a statement sent to Global Witness and seen by The Guardian newspaper, VRG said it had a licence to operate in Cambodia and Laos and claimed to observe the host country's rules.
HAGL said its subsidiaries invested in rubber plantations in each country but the firm "denies seizing land [and] illegally exploiting wood".
Deutsche Bank said: "[The bank] is not providing financing to [HAGL] ... or [VRG]."