On 11 March 2019, representatives of more than 700 Cambodian families who were violently displaced to make way for a sugar plantation have filed a formal complaint with the UK NCP against Bonsucro, the sugar industry’s sustainability certification body, for breaches of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (Guidelines). The complainants allege that Bonsucro failed to hold a member company, Mitr Phol, accountable after the Thai sugar giant grabbed their land and left them homeless and destitute. Bonsucro is headquartered in the United Kingdom and has operations that span the globe.
The complaint was filed on behalf of the Cambodian families by the U.S. organization Inclusive Development International and the Cambodian organizations Equitable Cambodia and the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO).
Complainants assert that families were forced off their land to make way for Mitr Phol’s sugarcane plantations between 2008 and 2009. Those who sought to defend their rights were jailed. The families have endured more than a decade of impoverishment and related hardships as a result of the land seizures. Complainants assert that although the Thai National Human Rights Commission found Mitr Phol responsible for the land grab and called upon the company to “correct and remedy the impacts,” Mitr Phol has refused to provide any form of compensation to the Cambodian families.
Representatives of the evicted families submitted a complaint against Mitr Phol to Bonsucro’s grievance mechanism in 2011. A year later, the Thai company withdrew from Bonsucro rather than address the complaint. In 2015, Bonsucro quietly reinstated Mitr Pohl and never restarted the complaint process. Inclusive Development International, Equitable Cambodia and LICADHO filed another complaint in 2016, which Bonsucro’s board dismissed in December 2018 on the grounds that it had not received “cogent evidence that…Mitr Phol breached the terms of Bonsucro’s Code of Conduct in place at the time.”
Relevant OECD Guidelines
- Chapter II
- Chapter II Paragraph A10
- Chapter II Paragraph A12
- Chapter IV
- Chapter IV Paragraph 3
- Chapter IV Paragraph 4
- Chapter IV Paragraph 5
- Chapter IV Paragraph 6
The UK NCP issued an intial assessment accepting the complaint on 25 September 25 2019. In its initial assessment, the UK NCP noted that a precise definition of multinational enterprises is not required for the purpose of the Guidelines and that they consider that the Guidelines apply to Bonsucro as a company with member organisations established in more than one country.
The UK NCP will now formally ask the parties whether they are willing to engage in a mediation/conciliation process, with the aim of agreeing how the issues identified can be successfully addressed.