Scores of villagers from Preah Vihear’s Kulen district have appealed to Prime Minister Hun Sen for a year’s reprieve on their microfinance debts, saying drought and low product prices have made it impossible to pay back their loans.
A joint letter, thumbprinted by 164 villagers and dated August 29, requests the premier’s intervention in their personal financial woes, though they promised to keep paying monthly interest. “We, 164 families, have been faced with drought, insects and worms that are destroying our crops and that led to a lesser yield; the harvested yields are sold at a low price on the market,” reads the letter.
Chhoeun Leap, 32, said villagers had borrowed from a range of microfinance banks, including Prasak Microfinance and Sathapana Bank Plc, adding that he had borrowed some $2,000.
The group’s request, Leap said, was prompted by the premier’s recent “solutions” tour of Cambodia, which has seen him make numerous populist decrees in favour of local land disputants and market vendors.
“We think that Samdech can help [and] might do us a favour to request the bank to delay,” he said.
Hun Sen swung through the province last week as part of his tour, handing out parcels of land to more than 120 families.
Bun Mony, CEO of Sathapana Bank Plc, said his institution has a policy to help its customers by negotiating if they experienced repayment problems, but noted some customers “lie to us, so the microfinance bank becomes the victim”.
Hout Ieng Tong, chairman of the Cambodian Microfinance Association, said that borrowers encountering issues should meet with them directly.