Cambodians to appeal ruling in Mitr Phol case

Cambodians to appeal ruling in Mitr Phol case

Thai civil court rejects class-action suit accusing country's biggest sugar firm of land grab

A man collects sugar cane at his farm in Kandal province of Cambodia. (Reuters Photo)
A man collects sugar cane at his farm in Kandal province of Cambodia. (Reuters Photo)

Cambodian villagers will appeal a Thai court decision rejecting their class action lawsuit for rights abuses allegedly committed by Mitr Phol, the country’s biggest sugar producer, a non-profit group said on Friday.

The lawsuit, filed in April last year on behalf of more than 3,000 Cambodian plaintiffs, accused Mitr Phol of violently displacing them in the northwestern province of Oddar Meanchey between 2008 and 2009 to make way for plantations. Mitr Phol withdrew from the sugar project in 2014.

Mitr Phol said it had invested in Cambodia in “a good faith partnership” with the Cambodian government and obtained temporary concessions in compliance with all local and national laws.

On Thursday, a Bangkok civil court ruled that the case brought by the Cambodians was not suitable to be treated as a class action due to communication issues, as the plaintiffs live in remote areas in Cambodia and do not speak Thai.

The villagers plan to appeal the decision, and if that fails, they would file individual civil lawsuits, said the US-based non-profit group Inclusive Development International, which is helping the Cambodians with the case.

“The Bangkok court got this decision totally wrong, but the class action ruling will be appealed and we will not give up until Mitr Phol is held accountable, even if that means bringing 700 individual civil suits,” David Pred, the group’s executive director, told Reuters.

“The reality is that individual civil suits, which the Cambodian victims will be forced to pursue if the decision is not overturned on appeal, will be much more costly and complicated for all parties.”

Mitr Phol did not immediately comment when contacted by Reuters, saying it was working on a statement.

The class action lawsuit was said to be the first such lawsuit filed in a Thai court by plaintiffs from another country against a Thai company operating outside Thailand. 


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