For Many Cambodians, Debt Repayment Bigger Threat Than COVID-19

Deep household debt might soon push Cambodia into a crisis as job losses caused by COVID-19 make it even harder for families repay loans, experts and debtors say.

While the country has officially only registered 122 coronavirus cases, thousands of garment workers lost their jobs when their factories closed. Thousands from the tourism or service sectors are also jobless or earning far less money than they were six months ago. For some, this crisis could have devastating consequences, including loss of family land, often a fast track to abject poverty.

Hy Sokhom, who drives a tuk-tuk, a three-wheeled motorized rickshaw, is one of millions of Cambodians who, on average, are the world’s most indebted borrowers. Usually his wife and adult daughter sell noodles at a school in Kandal province’s Kien Svay district, but the school closed mid-March as part of measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

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