Each year, foreign agricultural corporations deprive thousands of Cambodian farmers of their fields — with the government’s help. Human rights groups claim German taxpayer money is used to fund a program that benefits land grabbers.
Land grabbing is a worldwide phenomenon, but Cambodia is unique because the German government plays a controversial role there. According to human rights activists, German taxpayer money is being used to fund a program that inadvertently benefits the land grabbers.
“We are on the road to becoming a society of large land owners,” says Lao Mong Hay, a veteran Cambodian civil rights activist. With his white beard, he resembles a Confucian scholar. “The ruling elite is allied with big business, and together they are making a quick buck,” he says. He presses his fingers together to illustrate this unholy alliance. “All they need is the land, a few saws and a few tractors,” he says, “and before long the forest has been cut down.”
Christina Warning of German Agro Action (Welthungerhilfe) has experienced this firsthand. “In one village,” she says, “they got people drunk so they would place their fingerprints at the bottom of a contract. All they received in compensation was clothing, medication and mobile phones.” And they no longer owned their fields.