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MFIs agree low-interest loans for Run Ta Ek area move-ins

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An aerial view of the Run Ta Ek area, where around 6,000 households living in or near Angkor Archaeological Park are expected to relocate to, as seen on September 13. The area is located in the commune of the same name in Siem Reap province’s Banteay Srei district. SPM

MFIs agree low-interest loans for Run Ta Ek area move-ins

The Cambodia Microfinance Association (CMA) has agreed to provide loans with below-market interest rates for residents of UNESCO land around the Angkor temples in Siem Reap province who voluntarily relocate to the Run Ta Ek area about 20km northeast of Angkor Wat.

This comes on the heels of a request from Prime Minister Hun Sen on September 13 for microfinance institutions (MFI) to offer such loans, potentially with additional favourable terms, to those who have moved into the area, in Banteay Srei district’s Run Ta Ek commune.

The CMA said in a September 14 press release that it “would like to encourage all members of the association operating [nearby] to facilitate the provision of new loans with convenience and favourable conditions to the people who have moved to Run Ta Ek Eco-Village at the request of the Royal Government.

“This gesture is the participation of the microfinance sector with the Royal Government in the [interest of maintenance] and conservation of Angkor Archaeological Park, a world heritage site,” it said.

CMA chairman Sok Voeun said his association held a meeting with members following the premier’s request. “All our members have agreed to the prime minister’s request to provide loans with below-market interest rates and reasonable conditions for the people of Run Ta Ek Eco-Village.

“But we will evaluate the size of the loan according to the actual repayment ability of the people who have actually moved there, along with their income flow[s],” he said. “We will not provide any loans that do not help the people, but [instead] give them an additional burden, so we have our officials to assess the actual situation.”

Voeun, who is also CEO of Sri Lankan-owned LOLC (Cambodia) Plc, said he had a meeting on September 14 with the Siem Reap regional manager to provide guidelines that he said align with the association’s rules.

“I have just given advice in-principle to our branch managers and staff in Siem Reap to work on lending with favourable rates, and easing requirements,” he said, reiterating that loan sizes will be based on assessments.

CMA spokesman Kaing Tongngy told The Post that the association believes that upcoming special offers would improve the livelihoods of those who move to the Run Ta Ek area, “as they may have financial need to start new businesses and renovate their houses or [build] new ones”.

He said the CMA is in talks with members on detailed guidelines, and that those who operate in and near the area “have agreed to the commitment”.

However, much like Voeun, Tongngy remarked that “we cannot set a fix interest rate, as rates are based on loan size, loan term and many other conditions”.

The relocation operation to the Run Ta Ek and Peak Sneng areas – and potentially other areas to be determined – encompasses 93,351 plots representing a total 10,945ha, located in 114 target villages of 24 communes, in Siem Reap’s provincial town and four districts, according to the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction.

Since last month, a total of 1,117 households living within the park have drawn random lots in order to move to the new location. According to Hun Sen, the area is expected to eventually receive up to 6,000 households from the Angkor conservation area.

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