Approximately 1500 families were forcibly displaced and dispossessed of their land, productive resources and in some cases houses, to make way for a Phnom Penh Sugar Co. Ltd. (PPS) sugar plantation and refinery that was partially financed by ANZ to the tune of USD 40 million. In addition to forced evictions, military-backed land seizures and destruction of crops, personal property and community managed forests, PPS was also involved in arbitrary arrests and intimidation of villagers, and the widespread use of child labour and dangerous working conditions that have resulted in several worker deaths. Although these abuses occurred between 2010 and 2011, the affected households remain either uncompensated or under-compensated for their losses.
PPS’s illegal conduct was widely publicized in the Cambodian English-language press prior to ANZ’s loan decision. Any credible due diligence process would have led to a prudent decision to decline the loan request, or to impose strict social and environmental requirements in accordance with ANZ’s policies and commitments. ANZ did neither and proceeded to loan the sugar company approximately $40 million without social and environmental conditions. This due diligence failure breached ANZ’s own policies and its responsibilities under a range of international instruments, including the OECD Guidelines on Multinational Enterprises, the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and the Equator Principles, all which ANZ advertises its compliance with on its website.
Only after ANZ’s relationship with PPS was publicly exposed did the bank attempt to get its client to put in place measures to address its social and environmental impacts. However, these efforts were half-hearted. Rather than use its vast financial resources to make things right, ANZ has wiped its hands of the matter. The bank severed ties with PPS after encouraging the firm to repay the loan prematurely in July 2014. ANZ now claims that it no longer bears any responsibility to the families.
This is a shocking and callous abdication from a bank that advertises itself as being ethical.
On October 6, 2014, Clean Sugar Campaign members Inclusive Development International and Equitable Cambodia filed a complaint against ANZ to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The complaint was lodged on behalf of 681 families who were forcibly displaced and dispossessed by Phnom Penh Sugar. The complaint details widespread violations of human rights, including forced evictions, military-backed land seizures, destruction of crops and property, arbitrary arrests and intimidation of villagers and the widespread use of child labour. It argues that ANZ breached its responsibilities under the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises by contributing to these abuses through their actions and omissions and failing to take reasonable measure to prevent or remediate them.
ANZ asserts that, because it is no longer a financier to the sugar firm, it has no responsibility for remediating the impacts of the project to which it contributed between 2011 and 2014. However, Inclusive Development International and Equitable Cambodia argue in the complaint that ANZ contributed directly to Phnom Penh Sugar’s illegal actions and profited from those actions, so it has an ongoing responsibility to provide reparations to those affected. ANZ financed a significant portion of PPS’s illegal activities, which resulted in the unlawful dispossession and displacement of hundreds of poor families from their land and livelihoods. ANZ profited handsomely from these illegal actions, and should return these ill-gotten gains to the Cambodian victims in order to help them rebuild their shattered lives.
The complaint can be found here.
Media and Updates
Inclusive Development International and Equitable Cambodia file OECD complaint against ANZ Bank for financing massive land grab – Inclusive Development International and Equitable Cambodia, October 7, 2014