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Lenders decline to discuss farmers' debt: SRP leader

Lenders decline to discuss farmers' debt: SRP leader

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090304_05_1.jpg

Opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua accuses four microfinance institutions of bailing on meeting to discuss farmers' plight.

Photo by:
TRACEY SHELTON

Opposition SRP lawmaker Mu Sochua speaks to reporters on Tuesday morning.  

OPPOSITION parliamentarian Mu Sochua told reporters Tuesday that the heads of a number of microfinance institutions had rejected a request to meet at the National Assembly to discuss solutions to the plight of small farmers hit by spiralling debt problems.

Mu Sochua said 15 institutions were invited, and the representatives of four creditor institutions - ACLEDA, Tong Fang, Vision Fund and Prasac - had said they would attend, but all four cancelled on the morning of the meeting.

The Sam Rainsy Party  lawmaker added that her request to hold the meeting at a National Assembly meeting room had been rejected Friday by the parliament's secretary general, Leng Penglong.

At the press conference Tuesday, Mu Sochua said the purpose of the meeting was to seek a resolution for creditor institutions and those in debt to them. Many farmers, she said, had been unable to repay what they had borrowed because crop prices had fallen sharply, and that meant they were unable to support their families.

"This problem must be discussed and addressed by government," she said.

Small farmers hurting

Mu Sochua said she recently visited eight districts in her constituency of Kampot and met with affected farmers. She said they had borrowed between US$100 and $200 for farming improvements, but falling crop prices meant they were unable to repay creditors their debt and interest.

Losing their land and their houses, she said, would mean they would lose their lives. For that reason, the SRP wanted to request that microfinance institutions suspend the confiscation of land and houses to provide time to resolve their debts.

Mu Sochua said Leng Penglong had refused the request for a meeting room for the creditor agencies to meet with her. The press conference took place in an alternative venue - an SRP lawmaker's office at the National Assembly.

Leng Penglong was unavailable for comment Tuesday.

The Post tried without success to ask the various microfinance heads whether they had been pressured to cancel their attendance at the meeting. The head of ACLEDA, In Channy, could not be reached for comment. An official at Prasac, who would not give his name, said the confirmation letter for the meeting had arrived late, and the head could not spare the time. The chief of Tong Fang, who also refused to give her name, referred the question to the Cambodian Micro Finance Association (CMFA), an industry body, as did the head of Vision Fund, who gave her name as Phea.

The director general of the CMFA, Hout Eang Tong, said Tuesday his members had decided not to participate because they were involved in the association's meeting with donors.

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