ANZ is resisting pressure to assist the hundreds of families who claim they been adversely affected. Photo: Ken Irwin
ANZ has ruled out helping hundreds of poor Cambodian families forcibly evicted from their land to make way for sugar-cane plantations that involved child labour and led to food shortages.
Fairfax Media this year revealed confidential audits that disclosed that ANZ’s Cambodian subsidiary, ANZ Royal Bank, had financed sugar plantations belonging to the Phnom Penh Sugar company owned by powerful Cambodian politician Ly Yong Phat.
Senator Phat’s company last month repaid its loan to ANZ Royal Bank but the affected farmers and villagers still want the bank to address their plight.
Dozens of farmers and villagers last week protested outside ANZ’s headquarters in Phnom Penh. The protest’s leaders met ANZ executives and asked for their help, arguing that the sugar plantations would not have gone ahead without the bank’s financial support.
ANZ executives have been told of families being forcibly removed from their homes, of food shortages, inadequate compensation, intimidation by military units and resettlement on unproductive land. A petition bearing the thumb prints of more than 300 affected villagers was presented to ANZ executives in the Cambodian capital this month.
But the bank, which last week announced an 8 per cent lift in its nine-month profit of $5.2 billion, is resisting pressure to assist the hundreds of families who claim they been adversely affected.
A spokesman for ANZ told Fairfax Media: “Relationships with the local community are a matter for PPS and it is not appropriate for ANZ to consider any compensation measures.
“ANZ is no longer a financier to PPS and it is no longer appropriate to have any discussions on the company’s business. Any issues would need to be raised with PPS directly.”
ANZ is a signatory to a global ethical banking code and has internal policies that require recipients of loans in developing countries ensure they have proper environmental, health and social management programs.
Protest leaders claim they were visited by Cambodian police over the weekend and threatened with violence if they continued their campaign against the bank.
The ANZ spokesman said he had no knowledge of the police involvement and that no one from the bank had asked police to intervene.
One villager visited by police over the weekend said they wanted to identify the “ringleaders” of the protest.
“One of the local authorities said, ‘If you go to Phnom Penh again be careful because you might be beaten to death’,” the villager said.
Another protester visited by police, Cheng Sopheap, said the families affected by the sugar plantations believed ANZ had a responsibility to help because it failed to ensure PPS acted in accordance with the bank’s ethical lending policies.
“Ly Yong Phat’s companies have bulldozed community houses and farm land, his company has destroyed rice fields. There was a forced eviction and children could not come to school,” Mr Sopheap said.
“The impact on the communities [is] because LYP’s companies got loans from ANZ bank.”
PPS company says it has properly compensated families, resettled them on new land and offered work in the plantations.
Senator Phat is one of Cambodia’s richest men and is part of the ruling political party.
The head of the Royal Group of companies, which ANZ partners in Cambodia, is tycoon Kith Meng.
Both Mr Meng and Senator Phat are close associates of Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/national/anz-says-no-to-evicted-cambodian-farmers-20140819-105sib.html#ixzz3B0raVrQi