Whatever qualms former nominal head of Democratic Kampuchea Khieu Samphan had
about the use of money and the role of banks during the Khmer Rouge's 1975-79
years in power - when currency was outlawed and the National Bank was left in
ruins - his wife So Socheath seems to have put that troubled past behind her and
has now embraced a for-profit, full-service banking future.
Samphan's 54-year-old wife, confirmed to the Post that she is one of around
131,000 borrowers with Cambodia's second largest lender, the ACLEDA Bank
"I borrowed 105,000 Baht from ACLEDA last year," said Socheath, who
lives with her husband and children just outside of Pailin town, "and gave it to
my children for farming."
Socheath said she and her kids grew soybeans
and sesame seeds, and produced about 3 to 4 tons in a year for sale in the
marketplace. She confirmed that she paid back the loan without any
"Because of poverty, otherwise I wouldn't take out a loan," she
said. "This year I stopped farming because of the drought and I also had a back
ACLEDA Bank, for its part, grabbed the limelight on Sept 21
when it was announced that the International Finance Corporation had awarded the
bank its 2005 Client Leadership Award.
"ACLEDA Bank's evolution from a
non-profit institution focusing on rural development to a first-tier commercial
bank serving thousands of entrepreneurs, in both rural and urban areas, is a
role model for any business, not just microfinance institutions," said Assaad
Jabre, IFC's Acting Executive Vice President in a Sept 21 press
"The winner of the IFC Client Leadership Award should be a
company that sets the standard for leadership in corporate governance, community
involvement, environmental and social sustainability, and commercial
success-ACLEDA has truly earned this award," Jabre added.
General Manager In Channy was in an ebullient mood on Sept 21 as he prepared to
head off to Washington, D.C. to accept the award. He told the Post that ACLEDA
was selected this year from among 1,400 nominees worldwide.
particular significance, given Cambodia's recent 30 years of violent conflict
and the resultant mindset in which people do not trust banks, is ACLEDA's
success in expanding the number of savings accounts.
"We have 76,979
small savers now," said Channy, noting that deposits were almost nil in 2001 and
had now reached nearly US$62 million.
ACLEDA Bank was set up in 1993 as
an NGO with support from UNDP and other aid agencies as part of a larger global
developmental trend to support microfinance initiatives designed to help
alleviate poverty. In 1998, with assistance from the IFC's Mekong Private Sector
Development Facility, it transitioned into a full-service private bank.
The bank's current loan portfolio stands at around US$81 million with
women comprising 70 percent of its borrowers. It has 136 offices and branches
around the Kingdom.