Saturday, June 8, 2013

Laos, Cambodia back VN firms against Global Witness accusation

Tuoi Tre News
June 8, 2013

Shortly after Vietnam’s Hoang Anh Gia Lai Group and the Vietnam Rubber Group (VRG) were accused by London-based environment watchdog Global Witness of being involved in deforestation activities in Laos and Cambodia, local authorities of the two nations have voiced their support for the companies.

HAGL, a property developer and multi-sector corporation, current operates several rubber projects in Laos and Cambodia, and was alleged by the Global Witness to have destroyed the forests there to make space for the plantations.

HAGL and VRG are also accused of having acquired more than 200,000 hectares of land through a series of deals with the Lao and Cambodian Governments that lacked transparency, according to the Vietnam News Agency.

During a reception of Vietnamese Ambassador to Cambodia Ngo Anh Dung on Friday, Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Yim Chhay Ly asserted that the Vietnamese investors in Cambodia, including the rubber firms, have contributed greatly to the economic development of the country.

The Deputy Prime Minister completely rejected the false information of Global Witness and the Radio Free Asia that the VRG and HAGL have destroyed the environment and claimed land plots from the locals in Cambodia, according to the Vietnam News Agency.

The Vietnamese firms in general, and the rubber companies in particular, have strictly adhered to the Cambodian laws, respect the local customs and traditions, and protect the environment during the process of their projects, he pressed.

He also criticized that Global Witness used photos taken during the regime of the Khmer Rouge to accuse the Vietnamese rubber firms of deforestation.

The organization also created false witnesses to allege that the Vietnamese companies have violently prevented local residents to work on their land plots.

Groundless accusation
The Global Witness accusation is also deemed illogical by Laotian authorities, according to the June 3 report by the Vietnam News Agency.

[Global Witness]’s allegation is groundless argument made towards the VRG and HAGL -- enterprises that have hugely invested in Laos, Sithong Chitnhothinh, head of Press Department under the Lao Foreign Ministry told reporters at a press briefing on June 3.

No force can ruin the special friendship, solidarity and comprehensive cooperation between Laos and Vietnam, Sithong Chitnhothinh was quoted by newswire Vietnam+ as saying.

A story on Pathet Lao newspaper on May 21 also said that the Vietnamese firms have greatly contributed to socio-economic development in Laos by generating jobs and enhancing living conditions for local people.

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