Sacravatoons no 1604 :" The Back Scratching "

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By Liam Cochrane
Australia Network News

A subsidiary of one of Australia's largest banks, ANZ Royal, has denied it is involved in a scheme to partner up private businesses with Cambodian army units.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen announced the initiative last week and said more than 40 partnerships had already been established to provide food, medicine, tools, buildings and transport for troops and their families.
One of the businesses named as a sponsor of the Cambodian army was Metfone - a subsidiary of a mobile phone company owned by the Vietnamese military.

Another on the list was ANZ Royal - a joint partnership between Australia's ANZ Bank and one of Cambodia's biggest business conglomerates, The Royal Group.

Cambodian Council of Minister's spokesman Phay Siphan, says it's part of the Cambodian culture.

"As part of the ANZ they do have their own employees and some Cambodians on management there, they have the chance to mobilise their charity to support some ? unit they feel like supporting. But the charity hasn't just been supported today, it's been years already. It's just that they have been assigned it so that the people understand who they help."

ANZ Royal, the Cambodian joint venture, declined to comment to Radio Australia, but CEO Stephen Higgins was quoted in local media saying, that although he was unsure how the company's name appeared on the list ofmilitary sponsors, it might be "some type of printing error".

A spokeswoman for ANZ in Australia, emailed this statement:

"It is not appropriate for ANZ to provide support or sponsorships to individual military units in any country in which we operate. ANZ Royal Bank, as a subsidiary of ANZ, has not and will not be providing such support."

The initiative to formally link businesses with the military has raised concerns among human rights groups who work in Cambodia.

A spokeswoman from the rights group LICADHO, Naly Pilorge, says there are some serious questions about the program.

"The document is not clear about the role of the ministries, vis-a-vis, the company and certain units of the military and it is especially concerning because some of these ministries have absolutely no link to the military such as those that are supposed to focus on youth or women or health and so on. So that's the question that we are trying to find the answers to, because right now it is very unclear. It is alarming because some of these ministries have nothing to do with themilitary and for good reason."

She says it wouldn't be tolerated in other countries.

"In most countries, developed countries and developing countries, it would be illegal for business in the private sector to openly and directly fund the military, but by dealing so openly there is an assumption that the military is open to any group or any company that wishes to use the military to protect its interests and its private interests," she said.

"We have see this over the country over the years in terms of land grabbing. We have the seen the military used, especially in the rural areas, used to evict people to protect the interests of economic concessions, and this is really disturbing because legislation says themilitary is to protect citizens equally and not be used for the private interests of companies."

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