Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - ANZ Royal and sugar firm part ways

ANZ Royal and sugar firm part ways

A 13-year-old labourer works in a sugarcane plantation on land owned by Phnom Penh Sugar Company
A 13-year-old labourer works in a sugarcane plantation on land owned by Phnom Penh Sugar Company in Kampong Speu last year. Vireak Mai

ANZ Royal and sugar firm part ways

ANZ Royal Bank has severed its ties with ruling party Senator Ly Yong Phat’s controversial sugar plantation, a $220 million development that has been at the centre of years-long land disputes and child labour scandals.

Environmental audit documents commissioned by ANZ and obtained by the Post in January linked ANZ Royal Bank – a joint venture between the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group and Cambodia’s Royal Group – to Yong Phat’s Phnom Penh Sugar Company. The documents revealed that from 2010 to 2013 the company failed to address 60 per cent of recommendations made by Bangkok-based auditor International Environmental Management, including ones related to worker health and safety.

After the revelations, ANZ said it would continue its commercial relationship with Phnom Penh Sugar and work with the firm, affected families and NGOs to address concerns at the 8,343-hectare land concession in Kampong Speu.

But an ANZ spokesman confirmed via email yesterday that the bank had cut its ties with the company.

“While I’m limited in what I can say about individual customers, I can confirm that PPS has paid out its loan and is no longer a customer of ANZ,” the spokesman said, declining to go into further detail.

A report on Saturday in The Australian newspaper said that Phnom Penh Sugar had found a new backer for the part-financing of its sugar business, and that its compliance costs made it a cheaper lending option than ANZ.

Seng Nhak, Phnom Penh Sugar’s managing director, declined to comment on any new agreement yester-day; however, he confirmed that ANZ was no longer involved with his company.

“While Phnom Penh Sugar has very much valued its relationship with ANZ, the company has found itself in a position whereby it is able to repay the loan and has now done so,” he said by email.

Nhak added that Phnom Penh Sugar was regularly meeting with families affected by its operations.

Rights groups working with these families expressed disappointment at ANZ’s decision, saying that no progress has been made since the banking giant agreed to work with those evicted from their homes.

“As a major financier of the sugar project, which has no doubt profited handsomely from it, ANZ has a duty of care to the people whose land was grabbed and that duty does not go away when it recalls its loan,” David Pred, managing director of Inclusive Development International, said.

Eang Vuthy, executive director of Equitable Cambodia, who attended a meeting on May 8 with ANZ representatives of Australia, Yong Phat and community representatives, said dozens of issues remained unresolved.

“Both the company and ANZ have a responsibility to address these issues. They have to work better to address these issues, but we have seen zero solutions on the ground,” he told the Post yesterday.

“Of course they have paid back the loan to the bank, but the harm is still there.”

MOST VIEWED

  • Without shoes or a helmet, a young cyclist steals the show

    Pech Theara gripped the curved handlebars of his rusty old bike, planted his bare feet on its pedals and stormed as fast as he could towards the finish line. The odds were against him as the 13-year-old faced off against kids with nicer bikes at

  • Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville expressway on schedule

    The construction of the more than $1.9 billion Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville Expressway has not been delayed despite the Covid-19 pandemic, with more than 26 per cent of the project completed and expected to finish in about two years, according to Ministry of Public Works and Transport secretary of

  • Singapore group seeks $14M in damages from PPSP over ‘breach of contract’

    Singapore-based Asiatic Group (Holdings) Ltd is seeking a minimum of $14.4 million relief from Cambodia Securities Exchange (CSX)-listed Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone Plc (PPSP) for allegedly breaching a power plant joint venture (JV) agreement. Asiatic Group’s wholly-owned Colben System Pte Ltd and 95 per

  • Over 110 garment factories close

    A government official said on November 22 that at least 110 garment factories had closed in the first nine months of the year and left more than 55,000 workers without jobs – but union leaders worry those numbers could be much higher. Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training undersecretary

  • Cambodia lauded for fight against Covid-19

    Cambodia has drawn global accolades for its handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, with a new report finding that the Kingdom has controlled the pandemic better than any other country in Asia. Dr Takeshi Kasai, director of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Western Pacific region,

  • More than 540 deported in first nine months

    The Ministry of Interior’s General Department of Immigration (GDI) deported 542 foreigners in the first nine months of this year for various offences. GDI spokesman Keo Vanthan said the deportees were a mix of 40 nationalities, most of them Chinese. Since 2014, he said the GDI had