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The protester clause

A majority government-owned life insurance company has stopped paying out benefits to policy holders who die while taking part in protests and demonstrations, the company confirmed yesterday.

The Cambodian Life Insurance Company – 51 per cent owned by the Ministry of Economy and Finance and 49 per cent owned by Thai, Indonesian and Hong Kong insurance firms – lists “demonstrations” as one of five exclusions where benefits will not be paid, according to policy documents obtained by the Post.

Prim Somony, a senior official at Cambodian Life’s training department, confirmed yesterday that the company will not pay compensation to any policy holder who dies while joining a demonstration due to the level of risk involved.

While the company added the exclusion in 2013, he could not confirm whether this occurred before or after a bystander was killed at the Kbal Thnal flyover in September during clashes between irate motorists and security forces at a roadblock set up in order to block opposition party demonstrators.

That death was the first of at least six protest-related fatalities between September and early January, but Somony denied that the exclusion had anything to do with the current political climate.

“The conditions which we have created [for our policies] are not related to the current political situation.… They were created because we limit the threshold of risk. Life insurance companies work with human risk,” he said.

“If [a policy holder] takes many risks, we cannot guarantee [compensation].

“It does not mean that we have seen demonstrations taking place so we added this [exclusion]. We have had demonstrations [in Cambodia] since a long time ago, not just recently.”

Life insurance in Cambodia is a relatively new industry. Cambodia Life became the first company to offer policies in early 2012, with Manulife Financial and Prudential being the only major firms to have since joined the market.

Manulife Cambodia’s CEO and managing director Robert Elliot yesterday said that “if death occurred through a demonstration, we would pay out the basic death benefit”.

Prudential has declined to comment.

Other exclusions listed in Cambodia Life’s policy include suicide committed during the first two years, murder, death suffered while committing a crime and death from HIV/AIDS.

According to the company, all premiums paid would be reimbursed to the policy holder’s family if he or she died in any of the excluded circumstances.

Preap Kol, executive director at Transparency International Cambodia, said the demonstration exclusion was indicative of the state of freedom of assembly.

“It proves that Cambodia has a lot of violent [crackdowns] at demonstrations,” he said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY KEVIN PONNIAH

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