Land to lose: coronavirus compounds debt crisis in Cambodia

As dark clouds approached her village in northwestern Cambodia one afternoon in July, Set Sreylon prepared for the monsoon that threatened to flood her new family home.

While the rains were a concern, the 37-year-old feared a bigger threat to her property – the daily visits from debt collectors demanding repayments on her microfinance loan and ensuing credit she had taken out to keep up with the repayments.

With the coronavirus pandemic ending Sreylon and her husband’s jobs in the tourism industry, the mother-of-two was at a loss as to how she would keep the lenders at bay, and clear a growing debt secured by the title to her family’s land.

Her debt – originally a single loan from a microfinance institution (MFI) – had almost doubled in a year to $8,000 and was pursued by various loan sharks charging up to 40% interest.

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Matt Blomberg, Mech Dara