UK Lawsuit Against Sugar Firm Heading to Trial

A lawsuit filed by families in Koh Kong province accusing U.K. sugar giant Tate & Lyle of wrongfully profiting off land stolen from them is heading to trial after efforts to mediate a settlement fell through earlier this month, according to those involved. Law firm Jones Day filed the suit on behalf of the 200 families at the U.K.’s High Court of Justice in March. They claim Tate & Lyle owes them millions of dollars for the sugar bought from the Thai plantation owners accused of illegally—and sometimes violently—evicting them. … “Tate & Lyle invited me to meet in England to negotiate over the fact that my community lost our land to a sugarcane company, but the company’s representative and its lawyer were not willing to negotiate,” he [claimant families’ representative An Haya] said. … CLEC [Community Legal Education Center] executive director Yeng Virak, who also attended the meeting, confirmed that the two sides could not make a deal. … The families accuse the Thai owners of the plantation, KSL, of illegally acquiring their homes and farms beginning in 2006 and of using guards and employees to raze some of their crops and houses in the process. … In a defense motion filed with the High Court in May, Tate & Lyle said it was unaware of the alleged abuses and that the court had no jurisdiction to adjudicate breaches of Cambodian law. It also argued the families had no right to compensation from the firm the sugarcane grown on the disputed land had become a different “species” after it was refined and because they did not pay for any of the work that went into growing it.