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Position Paper on Hazardous Waste Dumping in Cambodia

25 January 1999

Sam Rainsy Party - Cambodia

The approach to the Sihanoukville toxic waste dumping has so far been inconsistent. Testing has been insufficient, the site has not been closed off, contaminated materials have been distributed widely and not collected. Health reports have been incomplete and unconvincing. Officials of Formosa Plastic have reportedly visited Cambodia, but did not meet with any of the NGOs or international agencies working on the case, which raises the possibility that a deal may be struck in secret between that company and the Government.

This disaster highlights shortcomings in government response, public health, emergency response, and legal frameworks. The Sam Rainsy Party recommends that a concerted effort be made to address the four principal tasks below.


The Government, in cooperation with appropriate international agencies and NGOs, must ensure that the Formosa Plastics dump site in Sihanoukville is completely sealed off from the public and placed under 24-hour-a-day guard.

A recognized international firm experienced in hazardous waste clean-up should be hired to coordinate the following:

  • The waste itself, the underlying soil and the surrounding watershed must be thoroughly tested according to standard sampling and testing technologies for a full range of toxins, including organic and inorganic mercury, dioxin and other likely wastes.
  • Area residents who may have been exposed must be identified and tested for exposure, and full interviews conducted. They should be retested periodically according to the recommendations of recognized experts in the field.
  • Materials that have been removed from the site must be tracked down and returned.
  • The underlying soil must be decontaminated to safe levels for future use.
  • Formosa Plastics shall remove all of waste from Cambodian territory, pursuant to national and international law, within 90 days of the dumping date (this standard is set by the Basel Convention).
  • This project shall not be complete until a report of its completion is accepted and approved by the Task Force.


Formosa Plastics must bear all monetary costs of the dumping. Cambodia and its people did not produce the waste. They should bear none of the costs of the dumping.

 An account must be created to tally all costs associated with the above project to be assessed against Formosa Plastics, including but not limited to the future costs of treatment of affected residents, cost of testing and analysis, reasonable salaries for professional staff or consultants, loss of value of land in the dumping area, etc.

No arrangements or agreements made in secret between the Government or its representatives and Formosa Plastics shall be binding unless it is made in public with the full knowledge and consent of the National Assembly. Barring such an agreement, Formosa Plastics will be held responsible for any and all costs associated with the dumping incident. All such costs will be tracked by the Government and made public through periodic reports. These costs will be recovered using any available means under national and international laws and treaties. No time limits shall be imposed on legal attempts to recover these costs.

The Ministry of Justice must support individual efforts to recover damages from Formosa Plastic where they do not conflict with the national effort to recover damages.


The Ministry of Justice must conduct a thorough investigation of the incident, identify Cambodian officials involved and make a thorough public report of the progress of that investigation in 90 days, and then each month until its conclusory report is accepted and approved and published by the Task Force. Those found responsible must be prosecuted under relevant penal law.

Improper payments made in Cambodia must be recovered and put toward the cleanup. Such recovered funds which were improperly paid by Formosa Plastics or its agents will be deducted from the assessment against Formosa Plastics.


Future imports, transshipment and exports of hazardous waste must be prohibited by a comprehensive Cambodian law which 1) accedes to the Basel Convention and ban, 2) defines hazardous waste and prohibits its import, transshipment and export, 3) establishes responsibility for enforcement and 4) sets out criminal penalties for violations.

This law may be modeled on legislation and conventions adopted in other developing areas and countries such as Africa, Thailand and Vietnam, and shall be passed as soon as possible.


Sam Rainsy Party, Cabinet of the President
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
phone: 855 (0)23-215-375, fax: 210-137
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