Despite CEO Shayne Elliott’s comments to an Australian Parliamentary Standing Committee in response to the report that the bank should do the right the thing, ANZ has decided to keep the profits it earned from the human rights violations in Cambodia, deprive the victims of badly needed redress, and continue to mislead the public about the situation.
In 2011, ANZ provided a $40 million loan to Phnom Penh Sugar, which had forcibly displaced hundreds of local farming families and employed school-aged children in dangerous conditions at its sugarcane plantation in southern Cambodia. The human rights risks of doing business with the sugar company “would likely have been readily apparent” to ANZ, according to the findings. English-language media had regularly reported on the company’s role in land seizures and forced evictions prior to the loan.
Below are four misleading statements made by Shayne Elliott in a letter to interested stakeholders justifying the decision not to provide redress:
AusNCP confirms no such thing. ANZ never supplied any evidence that its loan to PPS was ring-fenced for the refinery. ANZ merely made this assertion and the AusNCP took it on face value and did not in any way suggest that this somehow mitigated the bank’s responsibility. ANZ is evidently seeking to mislead the public about this distinction. Even if ANZ’s claims are true, the plantation and refinery are two components of a single interdependent project that caused the illegal forced evictions of Cambodian farming families, along with a raft of other human rights violations.
ANZ is seeking to mislead stakeholders with this statement. What AusNCP actually confirmed is that at the time ANZ approved the loan to PPS there were regular media reports about land conflicts and illegal forced evictions carried out by PPS. The AusNCP states (para 37-38):
“…there was publicly available information at the time (in 2010) that suggested the existence of risks associated with ANZ’s former client and its project – including the well publicised dispute between PPS and the affected community at around the time that ANZ commenced financing the sugar refinery and factory. For instance, villagers were protesting against the project early in 2010... When its human rights standards were applied to ANZ’s commercial relationship with its former client PPS, it is arguable that most (if not all) of them would not be satisfactorily met.”
Indeed, forced evictions and ongoing human rights violations, including child labour and worker deaths, continued while PPS was a client of ANZ, and ANZ was well aware of this.
Despite our repeated communications to ANZ that this is untrue, the bank continues to hide behind this false information. In fact, the EU has taken the unprecedented step of triggering a formal process to withdraw Cambodia’s preferential tariff status because of the government’s failure to address land conflicts among other rights violations.
ANZ is not only misleading the public, but also giving credence to the claims of a corrupt, authoritarian government about a sham remediation process. The government-led process to which ANZ refers is beset by intimidation with take-it-or-leave-it offers to a small fraction of affected households of US$300 for land and property stolen from them. The vast majority of people affected by sugarcane land grabs across Cambodia have been excluded from the government process. Shayne Elliott’s assertion that “settlements have been reached with farmers in three of four affected provinces” is simply not true.
Here are five other recent cases in which ANZ has financed companies implicated in land grabbing and other serious human rights violations:
For more information, see: