Hoang Anh Gia Lai Joint Stock Company (HAGL group) has refuted accusations made by Global Witness that the group has acquired vast amounts of land for rubber plantations in Cambodia and Laos.

All these accusations are totally untrue, and HAGL always obeys the laws of Cambodia and Laos, Doan Nguyen Duc, chairman of the group, told the media in Ho Chi Minh City on May 17.

According to Duc, four subsidiary companies of the group jointly invested in an area of less than 40,000 hectares in Cambodia . This did not breach the country’s laws, which allows one company to own not more than 10,000 hectares, Duc explained.

It is also incorrect to say that HAGL has illegally exploited wood resources in either country, Duc said.

In order to clear things up, the group has invited Global Witness, a London-based international NGO, and the international media to survey areas where Global Witness say HAGL illegally exploited timber resources and acquired land. However, on May 16, Global Witness said it will not go to the areas, but wants to meet with HAGL leaders in Vietnam privately.

According to Duc, the accusations have no legal effect, but they have impacted on his group’s business.

In the near future, Duc said, HAGL will invite international independent organisations to visit and assess the environmental and social impacts of HAGL’s business operation in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. At the same time, the group will also apply for FSC certificates of the Forest Stewardship Council.

The group began investing in rubber plantation in Laos and Cambodia in 2008 and 2009 respectively. So far, it has spent over 30 million USD doing charitable work in the two countries, such as building roads, hospitals and schools. At present, almost all workers in the group’s plantations in both countries are local labourers. Working for the Vietnamese group, their lives have been considerably improved. For example, in Attapeu, Laos , the annual average income was 300-400 USD five years ago. At present, the figure is more than 1,200 USD. Besides, the province is now among those with the highest economic growth rate in Laos.-VNA