200 Protest as ADB Completes Rice Donations

The Asian Development Bank completed its emergency food disbursements Wednesday, with rice handouts in 50 communes in Siem Reap province, while protests over alleged unfair rice distributions continued, according to human rights workers and local villagers.

Kompong Chhnang provincial Ad­hoc coordinator Sam Chankea said more than 200 villagers from four communes in Kompong Chh­nang district protested at the provincial authority’s headquarters Tues­day, adding that it was the second day in a row that protests by poor villagers left off the ADB’s distribution list were held there.

“They are really poor,” Sam Chan­­kea said. The “ADB should have studied [the local population] clearly before distribution.”

“I went to protest because I want rice to support my family,” said Vong Kheang, 38, a landless day laborer from Phsar Chhnang commune. “The real poor in my village missed the rice donation,” he said.

Fellow villager Phan Srey Mao, 25, an HIV-positive widow with two children, said she had received only one bag of rice, while better-off families had received 35 kg of rice per family member.

“Why did I only get one bag for three family members?” she asked.

Protests began last week over un­fair distribution of the ADB rice amid claims by villagers that local government officials re­sponsible for identifying needy households had included well-off families.

Naly Pilorge, director of local rights group Licadho, said Tuesday her organization did not monitor the ADB’s mass distribution of rice aid, but added that large bilateral service-delivery projects in Cam­bodia often encounter problems of mismanagement and corruption.

Vong Sandap, deputy secretary-general of the Ministry of Finance and the government director for the execution of the ADB emergency rice project, said 12,000 tons of rice had been purchased at less than 2,000 riel per kg for distribution to 68,000 households identified for the project. That distribution was completed Wednesday, he said.

He declined to detail how the project’s rice suppliers had been selected, saying only that the procurement process had been conducted in cooperation with the ADB and an ex­­ternal consultant.

A joint ADB-government press release with more project details would be released soon, he added.

The rice for the ADB project was purchased from the Cambodian Rice Millers Association, said CRMA President Phou Phuy, adding that he had not participated in a public bidding process for the contract as the ADB had ap­proached his association.

Tes Ethda, general director of the state-owned rice trading company Green Trade, said Tuesday he had initially been approached by the ADB to supply rice, but the order was later canceled.

ADB Country Representative Ar­jun Goswami said the project’s rice suppliers had been selected in consultation with the government after an assessment based on rice quality and price, as well as the ability of sup­pliers to deliver efficiently.

External ADB consultant Thurai Singham Farojkumar, who was re­sponsible for the assessment of the project’s rice supplier, declined to speak with a reporter about the procurement process Wednesday.

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