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Battambang locals protest microfinance lender

Villagers gather on Monday to demand government intervention to speed up the unmerging of small MFI groups from the Cambodian Community Savings Federation in Battambang province. ANN
Villagers gather on Monday to demand government intervention to speed up the unmerging of small MFI groups from the Cambodian Community Savings Federation in Battambang province. ANN

Battambang locals protest microfinance lender

Villagers from four communes in Battambang province’s Sangke district staged a protest against a credit union and microfinance provider at the Battambang Provincial Hall on Monday, accusing the institution of mismanagement.

Locals representing four small community-based branches of the Cambodian Community Savings Federation said they agreed to give the central federation more control of their branches in April, but have since been unhappy with how the federation has run them.

Since then, many local staff members have been fired, and villagers who bought shares in the federation are not receiving returns on their investment like they used to, according to villagers, who asked the provincial governor to act on their petition to leave the federation.

Seurm Bunrith, provincial administrative chief, said that officials at the provincial level are still investigating the dispute.

“We’ve asked the district chief to make a report about what is going on,” Bunrith said. “The provincial court already issued a verdict [for the villagers] not to touch any [federation] property, like offices or buildings.”

But Rourm Lyna, an accountant in the Khemara community savings group in Wat Tamim commune, protested the court’s decision.

“The court does not even summon us. How come they issue the verdict?” Lyna said.

“The official from the federation came to the board of the community chief to ask us to sign for them to take control of the savings group – everything there. And now some of the staff were cut off.”

Farmer Poum Navy, 64, who used to be a staff member with the savings group, said she has 5 million riel ($1,220) saved with the body.

“I no longer work there, but I still keep my savings there,” Navy said, adding that she too was “not happy” to see employees fired.

Navy also said that the shares she invested in the group were no longer producing the same dividends.

“It’s different from how it was before,” she said.

The Cambodian Community Savings Federation could not be reached for comment yesterday, but on its website, the group describes itself as one of the pioneers of the credit union model in Cambodia, and says it supports 50,000 members and 25 community-based microfinance organisations across Battambang and Banteay Meanchey provinces.

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