Government Officials Meet Railway Evictees

Government officials met with about 200 families who stand to be affected by a railway rehabilitation project funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in Phnom Penh’s Toul Kok district on Friday to present their plans for the rest of the project and discuss the possibility of additional compensation.

Last month, thousands of families who have already lost land in the $143-million project to rehabilitate the country’s network of railways said the ADB’s proposed action plan would render them worse off than before, violating the Bank’s own social responsibility guidelines.

In the meeting, a representative from the inter-ministerial resettlement committee, who declined to give his name to a reporter, said the joint working group aims to complete a review of its contract with the families by the end of the third quarter this year.

“After a survey and check, we, the government and the ADB, have found the principle compensation gap and we have agreed with each other to hold a discussion about possible additional compensation,” the IRC official said.

He said this calculation was based on property loss as a result of incorrect construction and was also adjusted to consider inflation according to the Consumer Price Index. The compensation package would take into account the costs of funds needed to support livelihoods and resettlement costs, he said.

Many of the already evicted families were plunged into worsening debt by the project after being moved to relocation sites with few employment opportunities or basic social services.

Prior to Friday’s meeting, the affected families raised their concerns about potential property loss.

“We were invited to attend the meeting, but we are worried that we would lose our land and be evicted because of the railway project, because we heard that it would take 10 meters of land from the middle line of the railway,” said Ngorng Sokhoeun, a resident in Beoung Kak II commune’s Village 21.

But the resettlement committee representative told villagers that the project would require only 3.5 additional meters on either side of the center of the line.

“[T]hey just need to finish the project activities, but not by evicting us,” Mr. Sokhoeun said.

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