ANZ should not leave Cambodian community ‘high and dry’

Oxfam has condemned ANZ’s cutting of ties to the Cambodian sugar company implicated in the use of child labour and causing food shortages after forcing hundreds of families off their land.

ANZ – without warning to the affected communities or the NGOs that support them – has severed its ties with Phnom Penh Sugar after the company suddenly repaid its entire loan. The company has been implicated in arbitrary arrests, intimidation of villagers and dangerous working conditions that resulted in worker deaths.

Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Dr Helen Szoke said the bank still had a responsibility to work to ensure adequate compensation for the communities affected.

“ANZ has long known about the gravity of the situation for evicted communities affected by Phnom Penh Sugar,” Dr Szoke said.

“Families are still without adequate food, denied access to their land and highly vulnerable to violence and intimidation. There are concerns by groups working closely with the community that ANZ cutting and running will make people more vulnerable to the abusive practices of Phnom Penh Sugar and less likely to get justice for the human rights violations in which it is involved.”

“ANZ has now left these people high and dry, effectively taking no responsibility for remediation, something that any responsible financier must do.

“We want to urge ANZ to work with Phnom Penh Sugar and also the community to ensure that people are compensated for the harm done against them.”

Dr Szoke said the bank reported that it had tried to remedy the longstanding concerns about the use of child labour and forced evictions, but the company had not addressed them.

‘We want ANZ to try and continue working towards a solution and now outline how it will ensure redress for the people in this community – they deserve nothing less,” she said.

Dr Szoke said this case demonstrated the pitfalls of bank investment in emerging markets without attention paid to social and environmental risks.

“When ANZ does invest overseas, it needs to ensure it is doing so to the highest ethical standards and engaging in due diligence practices which are designed to address any social, human rights and environmental risks,” she said.

“ANZ needs to demonstrate that it understands all the environmental and social risks in its Asia-Pacific expansion strategy, and move to address them.”

“As ANZ CEO Mike Smith himself stated last year – ‘We believe that a bank connecting across the Asia-Pacific region will achieve superior growth and returns over the longer term. Integral to achieving this is our ability to manage social and environmental risks.’”

Oxfam released a report in April, Banking on Shaky Ground, which called on the big 4 banks to adopt a Zero Tolerance approach to land grabs throughout their business operations to inform their future lending practices and support justice for those communities affected.

Source: Oxfam Australia

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Ryan Fritz

Ryan Fritz started The Advocate in 2014 to provide not-for-profits and charities with another media platform to tell their worthwhile hard news stories and opinion pieces effortlessly. In 2020, Ryan formed a team of volunteer journalists to help spread even more high-quality stories from the third sector. He also has over 10 years of experience as a media and communications professional for not-for-profits and charities.

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