About 100 villagers from Kompong Speu province protested Tuesday in front of the Phnom Penh headquarters of ANZ Royal Bank, which they blame for the loss of their farms to a pair of sugar plantations, and cursed the lender after bank officials refused to meet with them.
Several hundred Kompong Speu families accuse two plantations owned by CPP Senator Ly Yong Phat and his wife of stealing their farmland and driving them into debt. ANZ Royal financed one of the plantations until its loan was paid back in July.
The families say the plantation could not have begun operating without ANZ Royal’s money.
The villagers first protested outside the ANZ Royal’s head office in Phnom Penh in August, when bank officials told them ANZ Royal would not help resolve the land dispute, as any obligations it had to get involved ended when its loan was repaid.
Undeterred, the villagers were back outside the bank Tuesday afternoon.
The group arrived at about 1 p.m. and left by 4:30 p.m. without securing another meeting with bank officials. But before leaving, they placed a curse on ANZ Royal by burning incense and sprinkling the entrance of the building with rice and salt, entreating the spirits of their ancestors to ruin the bank’s business.
The families said they would resume their protest outside the bank today.
Mr. Sopheap said an additional 200 villagers set out from Kompong Speu in vans Tuesday morning to join the protest, but turned back after local police held up the convoy for several hours.
Provincial police chief Keo Pisey denied that his officers asked the villagers to turn back and said their vehicles were merely searched for weapons.
“We just stopped the vehicles to check for weapons so that the passengers would be safe,” he said.
ANZ Bank, the Australian majority owner of ANZ Royal, did not respond to a request for comment.
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