In 2005 the Asian Development Bank (ADB) began negotiations with the Cambodian Government to restore the nearly unusable railway line, the project CAM: GMS Rehabilitation of the Railway Cambodia sounded promising, BUT there is a catch, it will be and has to be privatized.
This is a little confusing since the primary goal of the project is to be an economic driver for Cambodia where the poor will benefit. Sharing this supposed ‘humanitarian’ objective is the Australian Government, through AusAID, but just like many foreign-funded projects it did not break the endless cycle of poverty, or aid the poor. Instead, it created additional difficulty into an already problematic situation. How?
For starters, the railway rehabilitation project has impacted approximately 18,000 people along 642 kilometers of tracks, this is according to Sim Virak, a representative of the Phnom Penh families during his interview with Hello VOA.
At least 1,200 families, or about 5,160 people, were required to resettle while others lost portions of their land, homes and shops that was affected by the tracks.
The land that was taken from the families to give way to the railway rehabilitation projects was used to grow produce and put food on the table of Cambodian families. The Cambodian Food Security Atlas stated that an average Cambodian plot is 1.5 Ha but 40% of households subsist on less than 0.5Ha whilst landlessness continues to increase due to displacement, to which the railway rehabilitation has contributed.
There was a clear violation of the human rights. According to Eang Vuthy, Executive Director of Equitable Cambodia, families have not been fairly compensated under ADB policies.
The choice of relocation sites for the affected family was at the Trapeang Anhchanh, in Dangkao district, near the border of Kompong Speu, and just like most relocation site it is labeled as a ‘dead spot’, facilities and services remain rudimentary, livelihood options are limited, and transport links to the city are infrequent and expensive. And this area is 20 kilometers away from the city!
In May 2010 it went ugly, Hut Holub, aged 9, and his older sister, Hut Heap, aged 13, went looking for water and drowned in a deep pond in one of the relocation sites. Their family was relocated from Battambang along with 52 other families. The site was without running water and electricity, Sok Choeun, the father of the two stated bitterly that this could have been avoided if they had enough food and clean water.
The use of coercive arms of the state, such as the police, the army and the gendarme towards its citizens to execute a foreign project is also a clear violation of the citizens right.
Lastly, ADB acknowledged its own shortcomings about the project particularly the displacement of local residents affected by forced resettlements, insufficient compensations, and neglect of their human rights. In fact, the ADB’s internal watchdog, the Compliance Review Panel (CRP) wrote that most of the families affected by resettlement are worse off now than before the move. It is an unadulterated disclosure that one of the country’s largest development partners failed to uphold its own safeguards.
http://www.opendevelopmentcambodia.net/tag/trapeang-anhchanh/ http://www.adb.org/projects/37269-013/main#project-pds http://www.aidwatch.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/CambodiaReport-WEB.pdf http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-02-10/an-report-finds-cambodian-rail-repairs-have-left-thousands-of-f/5249094 http://www.voacambodia.com/content/families-file-new-complaint-under-adb-railway-project/2966131.html https://www.devex.com/news/adb-admits-mistakes-over-controversial-railway-project-in-cambodia-82809
Written by Jen Derillo. Jen is NGO Forum on ADB's Program Coordinator for Communications.