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Eleven years of promises (Part 1 of 2)

By Tea Soentoro

A story of Ming Chhin’s struggle in getting her life back after being involuntarily displaced by the ADB-funded Highway One Project in Cambodia [1] MANILA, PHILIPPINES, 15 Feb 11 — “I would extend my coffee shop, paint it with new bright colors, put more chairs and tables. I would by a new kitchen set, so food will be served too, not only coffee. I will bake cookies which I will sell in the market. I can do many things. My shop is along the Steoung Slaut River, so if I make my coffee shop nicer, I would get more customers. If only I can get the money soon.”

This is a dream of Ming (aunt) Chhin, 60 years old, who is waiting for a fund from the Income Restoration Program [2] of the Asian Development Bank that was introduced in October 2009. This is Ming Chhin’s last hope to restore her livelihood after the Highway One Project ruined it. After eleven years, she is still waiting for a promise made by the ADB that her life, together with those of her neighbors, will be made better off through Highway One Project in Cambodia which was funded by the bank[3].

Ming Chhin is one of the affected people by the ADB-funded road project which stretches from Phnom Penh in Cambodia to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. At the Cambodian part, this Project included reconstruction of around 105 km of road from Neak Leoung to the border with Viet Nam at Bavet. It affected 1,068 households.[4]

“They promised our lives would be better off with the new road. We were told to relocate in year 2000. So, we moved our home. But they did neither gave us full compensation nor a new land for our house,” recounted Ming Chhin. At first, they received what they called a resettlement cost because they lived on a state/public land. “I received around US$340 before the relocation. The amount was so little to buy a new land or build a new house,” she added.

According to Chhin, most of them were able to afford renting a small place to live, and they had to move from one place to another for several times. “Some of us, at first, had to live on land that was flooded in the rainy season, or had to squat on someone’s land, fearing to be kicked out any time. Others had to pay a high rent. We had to spend much money on each relocation.”

Recalling her experience during their displacement, Ming Chhin said, “After moving many times, finally we came to a resettlement site that was constructed in 2003. Other communities were able to move in 2006. However, our lives at the resettlement site were still difficult.

“We received the full compensation only in 2006. Yes, four years after the relocation. After coming to the resettlement site, we still had to fight for land filling, toilets, and wells to improve our living conditions. Though we received the compensation money before we entered the resettlement site, still it was not enough for continuing our lives,” Chhin said.

“At that time, I received US$1,400. In total, I have received around US$1,700 as compensation for giving up my land, my house and my coffee shop. Many of us used to run a small store before. We lost our stores and did not have the money to build new ones,” she recounted.

Moreover, Chhin thought that many others had more difficult lives. “Some of us faced harder situation because they remained landless until now. A few members of our communities still have not received compensation for their lost of land. They could not even join us in the Resettlement Site. I still do not understand why they cannot get new land.”


1 Based on several interactions with Ming Chhin in Kyoto, San Pablo and Quezon City

2 ADB, October 2009, Capacity Development Technical Assistance (CDTA), Kingdom of Cambodia: Capacity Development for Income Restoration Programs at

3 Formally, the Project is called Kingdom of Cambodia and Socialist Republic of Viet Nam: Greater Mekong Subregion: Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City Highway Project. Information about the Project can be obtained at

4 ADB, Completion Report, December 2007, Kingdom of Cambodia and Socialist Republic of VietNam: Greater Mekong Subregion: Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City Highway Project, para 64, p.18 at http://


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