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At a meeting this week, the Cambodian Campaign to Ban Landmines
called on ANZ Royal to pressure its Australian parent company into
cancelling credit to a US manufacturer of cluster munitions.
Australia and New Zealand Banking Group, a 55 percent stakeholder in ANZ Royal, contributed $37.5 million in 2007 toward a $1.5 billion line of credit for US defense contracting giant Lockheed Martin, according to the NGOs IKV Pax Christi and Netwerk Vlaanderen.
Maker of the US Air Force F-22 stealth fighter, Lockheed Martin Corp also produces a version of the M30 Guided Multiple Rocket Launcher System, capable of launching rockets designed to release clusters of 404 bomblets, or sub-munitions.
"Cambodians know firsthand the terrible legacy that cluster bombs leave for the generations that follow any war, which is why it is shameful that the ANZ bank can operate in a country like Cambodia, at the same time loaning money to a company which produces cluster bombs," Emma Leslie, an anti-cluster munitions campaigner, said in a statement issued yesterday.
Between 1969 and 1973, the US dropped some 26 million sub-munitions on Cambodia, according to Human Rights Watch. It estimates that anywhere from 1.3 million to 7.8 million of them failed to explode, allowing them to continue maiming and killing Cambodians today.
Ms Leslie said she met with ANZ Royal CEO Steven Higgins yesterday morning in the hope of enlisting the Cambodian-based bank in its efforts to persuade ANZ to sever all ties with Lockheed Martin.
"It was a very preliminary discussion and it was a very friendly discussion," Ms Leslie said of the 20-minute meeting. "At the moment, we're putting them on notice."
Mr Higgins, who said that, to his recollection, the meeting had occurred Monday afternoon, said he took no position on CCBL's request and relayed it to Australia by e-mail. "We were asked to pass on the concerns that she has raised, and we've done so," Mr Higgins said yesterday.
In a 2007 letter to investors, ANZ notes that bank policy "explicitly prohibits the direct financing of controversial weapons including cluster munitions." In its defense, the bank adds that its deal with Lockheed Martin does not directly serve the production of cluster munitions.
While the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which bans the use, stockpiling and transfer of cluster munitions, does not explicitly ban investment, proponents argue that the financiers of cluster munitions manufacturers are clearly breaking the spirit of the law if not the very letter.
"The Convention of Cluster Munitions has been signed by the Australian government. ANZ is an Australian company. We simply ask ANZ by the international conventions the Australian people support," Ms Leslie said in the statement.
Though signed by 107 nations, including Australia, in 2008, the convention does not take effect until ratified by 30 countries. As of October, just 23 had ratified the convention.
The Cambodian government in December reneged on a pledge to sign the international convention banning cluster munitions.