ANZ’s financing of ruling party senator Ly Yong Phat’s controversial sugar plantation has come under fire once again, this time in an investigation by NGO Oxfam into Australia’s big four banks and their links to rights abuses in developing countries.
In a report titled "Banking on shaky ground", Oxfam questions the due-diligence processes of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, the National Australia Bank, Westpac and ANZ, citing examples of each bank financing companies linked to land grabs.
“From [Papua New Guinea] and Cambodia, to Indonesia and Brazil, our banks have backed companies accused of forcing people from their land,” Oxfam Australia chief executive Helen Szoke said in a statement.
Environmental audit documents obtained by the Post in January linked ANZ Royal Bank, a joint venture with Cambodia’s Royal Group, to Ly Yong Phat’s Phnom Penh Sugar Company, which has been at the centre of longstanding rows over land evictions and child labour scandals – something highlighted in the Oxfam report released yesterday.
“Oxfam’s concern with this case is that any Australian financier behaves in a respected manner in Cambodia, and commits to supporting the rights of local people to land, and sustainable livelihoods. Australia’s reputation in Cambodia is at risk,” Shen Narayanasamy, economic justice advocacy coordinator at Oxfam Australia told the Post via email.
ANZ is meeting with those families affected by relocation from the 8,343- hectare land concession in Kampong Speu, according to Narayanasamy.
“To date, the request of the community members has not been fulfilled, although negotiations are continuing,” she said.
ANZ did not respond to specific questions relating to the Phnom Penh Sugar case but said in an emailed statement that it was reviewing the way the sugar producer addressed its environmental and social obligations.
“ANZ has been involved in an extensive dialogue here in Australia and in Cambodia to hear the concerns of NGOs, including Inclusive Development and Oxfam, as well as supporting our customer meeting with NGOs and members of the community directly,” the bank’s email statement said in response to the Oxfam report.
The NGO’s report comes just days after the Phnom Penh Sugar Company came under further scrutiny in the Australian media after the death of two workers on a plantation in the past six months. Both were killed in accidents involving harvesters.
The environmental audit reports commissioned by ANZ and leaked to the Post in January also reveal that, from 2010 to 2013, Phnom Penh Sugar failed to address worker health and safety issues raised by the auditor, Bangkok-based International Environmental Management.
In response to the Oxfam report, Phnom Penh Sugar said it has appointed a community relations officer who is liaising directly with affected villagers.