Inquiry Ordered into Suicides Relating to Rattanakiri Debt Collection

The Association of Banks in Cambodia and Cambodia Microfinance Association are viewing the allegations seriously and want an independent investigation to ensure the integrity of the findings
A person carries riel notes at a market in Phnom Penh. Kiripost/Siv Channa
A person carries riel notes at a market in Phnom Penh. Kiripost/Siv Channa

A thorough review into allegations of suicides and attempted suicides in Rattanakiri due to over-aggressive handling by loan officers have been called by the Association of Banks in Cambodia (ABC) and the Cambodia Microfinance Association (CMA).

In a statement Wednesday, the associations said they are viewing the allegations seriously, noting their strong advocacy and support of the agenda on Responsible Lending and Consumer Protection.

While it did not name the financial institutions, which are reportedly behind the allegations, ABC and CMA urged the individual institutions to conduct a thorough review into the accounts and that action would be taken.

The organisations said they “strongly believe that an independent investigation is needed to ensure the integrity of the findings”.

“Should there be misconduct found, we strongly support disciplinary actions to be taken against the institutions or individuals concerned. We believe such action is necessary to restore the reputation and confidence of our financial system,” the joint statement read.

In an audio message to Kiripost, CMA spokesperson, Kaing Tongngy, said CMA recently received information from journalists and non-governmental organisations regarding four suicide cases and one attempted suicide in the province.

Apparently the allegations were connected to the nature of debt collection by certain microfinance institutions. “This is just an accusation,” he asserted.

"So, [we are] seeing this is serious [as] we have never received cases [like these] in the financial sector. We've worked with our members to collect evidence and documents on the cases. The information at this stage is that we have not found any direct links between financial institutions and the customers who were forced to commit suicide,” he said.

Tongngy said the information they obtained on the alleged incidents are “only audit reports” of each institution.

“So, the position of CMA [given that] this is a serious issue [is that] we believe there should be an independent investigation to verify whether suicide was forced by debt [owed] to financial institutions or not, so we can solve [the case],” he said.

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Assuming “mistakes” are found, he added, the sector would “correct” and ensure that the parties involved are prosecuted according to law.

However, if no evidence is found following the inquiry, Tongngy said that would prove the sector’s transparency in investigating the case as well as “clearing the names of those financial institutions”.

The allegations bear resemblance to aggressive debt collection tactics allegedly used by agents of financial institutions in rural provinces which are often reported by NGOs and the media.

In the joint statement, ABC and CMA said they will continue reviewing their individual credit assessment and collection policies and make necessary refinements to ensure the “right balance approach” is taken, so as to ensure both interests of customers and banks or MFIs are protected.

They will also continue to “strongly advocate financial literacy and financial access agenda” and ensure that members adhere to their Responsible Lending and Code of Conduct.

“We appreciate the interests of the NGOs on this matter, and we hope that in the future we can work with them constructively to protect consumer interests,” they said.


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