ANZ Implicated in Sugar Plantation Evictions

Three NGOs on Wednesday called on ANZ Royal Bank to help the hundreds of families who have lost farmland to a sugar plantation that the bank helped to finance in Kompong Speu province.

The NGOs also made public a 2013 social and environmental impact assessment of the Phnom Penh Sugar plantation that they obtained recently, showing that ANZ Royal had financed the project.

The impact assessment does not mention how much financing was provided by ANZ Royal, a subsidiary of Australia’s ANZ Bank, or when the bank lent money to Phnom Penh Sugar, which is owned by CPP Senator Ly Yong Phat.

“Lending money to Ly Yong Phat is hardly befitting of a bank that has been repeatedly ranked as the most sustainable bank globally by the Dow Jones Sustainability Index,” said David Pred, managing associate of Inclusive Development International, one of the NGOs that released the document.

“This is someone who has been implicated in violent forced evictions and land grabbing in three provinces, illegal logging and deforestation, child labor and the use of military, police and the courts to intimidate, arrest and imprison villagers who dare to protest…. This case seriously calls into question the credibility of ANZ’s due diligence process.”

Phnom Penh Sugar is accused of having seized some 2,000 hectares of farmland belonging to more than 1,000 families in 2010, the same year ANZ Royal first considered investing in the plantation, according to a 2010 impact assessment also released by the NGOs on Wednesday.

Eang Vuthy, executive director of the NGO Equitable Cambodia, said ANZ Royal CEO Grant Knuckey met with community representatives on Sunday.

“They [the bank] said they will talk to the company and try to address the issue,” he said.

Mr. Knuckey would not disclose any details about the financing deal but said the bank had asked Phnom Penh Sugar to meet with the affected families.

“ANZ Royal has requested that Phnom Penh Sugar has a direct dialogue with community leaders and we will continue to review the way the company addresses its social and environmental obligations,” he said.

“Where impacts are identified that are not consistent with ANZ’s policies, our aim is to be a positive force for engagement and for change,” he added. “Where we have found that a client does not meet our environmental and social standards and they are not willing to adapt their practices, ANZ has declined funding or exited the relationship. We will continue to engage with this particular case.”

© 2014, The Cambodia Daily. All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced in print, electronically, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without written permission.