Interior Minister Sar Kheng has slammed former opposition party leader Sam Rainsy for instigating people to start a civil disobedience campaign to obtain debt relief and to stop servicing loans.
His reaction came after Rainsy posted on his Facebook page an appeal to people who have debts with banks or microfinance institutions to halt servicing their debts, including paying interest.
“We have to campaign together to seek a resolution on debt repayments during the global financial crisis sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Rainsy had said.
Speaking during an event to appoint the new governor of Kep province on Friday, Mr Kheng said Rainsy is a populist politician who is using the pandemic to attack the government by creating dissatisfaction among the public over loan repayments to banks and microfinance institutions.
“I think that this propaganda will not work because when we owe somebody, we have to respond by repaying them although we can seek a suitable delay to service the debts,” Mr Kheng said.
He said Rainsy has previously used populist issues, such as people’s livelihods and jobs to attack the government.
“I would like to remind the local authorities to monitor such misinformation [as Rainsy’s] and explain the true situation to the people so that they will not be confused, which could lead to political instability,” Mr Kheng added.
Yang Kim Eng, president of the People Center of Develpment Peace, said yesterday the government should provide a suitable resolution on debt repayments to banks and other financial institutions.
“The government should facilitate measures to delay the debt-repayment period during the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said. “If we can’t find a suitable resolution it will impact the economy,” he said.
A World Bank report in April said impending COVID-19 health measures and high levels of micro debt pose a serious concern for approximately 2.4 million Cambodians with a combined outstanding debt of $8 billion.
The report, titled East Asia and Pacific: Countries Must Act Now to Mitigate Economic Shock of COVID-19, warned that Cambodia needs to ease credit and provide help to indebted households in the hope that borrowers and lenders can survive the upcoming economic shocks from COVID-19 restrictions.