August 3, 2021

80 Bunong acting in court in France rejected at first instance

The private French industrial group Bolloré won the first round of the legal offensive launched against it by Cambodian peasants in 2015. On July 2, the 6e Civil Chamber of the Judicial Court (TJ) of Nanterre – judicial jurisdiction on which the company depends – ruled “inadmissible” the action of 80 Bunongs who accuse the Breton industrialist of having illegally seized their lands and their sacred forest, destroying their places of life, of worship, as well as hundred-year-old trees considered as divinities, to install there rubber plantations, the rubber tree.

Minority community of itinerant and animist farmers, living in self-subsistence on the high plateaus of the province of Mondolkiri, in the eastern part of Cambodia, the Bunong – an ethnic group which includes approximately 37,000 people – estimate to have been robbed of nearly 7,000 hectares of their land. The dispute dates back to 2008, when the Cambodian government, fond of foreign investment, granted this vast concession to Socfin-KCD, a joint venture created a year earlier between the holding company Socfinasia, a Luxembourg company in which the Bolloré group is a shareholder. almost 39%, and Khao Chuly, a local construction company, close to the central government.

Article reserved for our subscribers Read also Cambodians sue Bolloré group for destroying their sacred forest

Their « expropriation » generated a “Loss of income” and has them “Deprived of their means of subsistence”, advance the Bunong. In the summer of 2015, they therefore initiated, through their French lawyer, Mr.e Fyodor Rilov, an action for recognition of tort against the Bolloré group, but the court decision of July 2 does not augur the rapid holding of the trial on the merits they claim.

Lack of title deeds

“None of the 80 applicants and voluntary interveners can justify a real or personal right to exploit the disputed lands”, “the action taken by each of them will therefore be declared inadmissible for lack of quality and interest to act” , indicates the 39-page document that The world consulted.

This case – in which the applicants are also ordered to pay procedural compensation of 20,000 euros to the Bolloré group, as well as to its subsidiary La Compagnie du Cambodge – illustrates the difficulty of indigenous peoples in asserting their rights against multinationals . The Bunong do not speak Khmer, the official Cambodian language, and live on the margins of society. They have neither identity documents nor title deeds. Most of the documents related to land were destroyed by the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s.

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