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Families File New Complaint Under ADB Railway Project

A train runs in Kampong Chhnang province, some 50 kilometers (31 miles) north of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2008. Asian Development Bank launched a multimillion dollar project Monday, Feb. 18, to restore Cambodia's dilapidated railway network as part of its larger goal to boost regional rail traffic and trade. The project worth about US$73 million (euro 50 million) will help rehabilitate some 650 kilometers (400 miles) of Cambodian rail track part of which can also be described as a "bamboo railway," an ADB statement said. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

The Railway Rehabilitation Project has impacted approximately 18,000 people along 642 kilometers of tracks.

Families who have been displaced by railway projects funded by the Asian Development Bank have filed a new complaint to an ADB review panel.

Twenty-two people this week requested a new investigation by the ADB’s Compliance Review Panel. The Railway Rehabilitation Project has impacted approximately 18,000 people along 642 kilometers of tracks. At least 1,200 families, or about 5,160 people, were required to resettle, while others lost portions of their land, homes and shops along the tracks.

Sim Virak, a representative of Phnom Penh families, told “Hello VOA” Monday that the ADB should review its policies, after loaning some $140 million to Cambodia for the projects. If the government does not follow ADB policy, the ADB should resolve the problem, he said. The ADB has been “inactive” in finding a solution for families, he said, which led to the families filing a new complaint this week.

Eang Vuthy, executive director of Equitable Cambodia, whose organization is assisting the complainants, said families have not been fairly compensated under ADB policies.

“But what we have seen is that problems have been prolonged, and the solution seems very slow, and some areas have not been solved properly,” he said. “That’s why there are the protests, as well as the complaints from the people.”

He acknowledged that the project was important for the transportation of goods in Cambodia, but he said the people’s rights must also be considered.

“After receiving a complaint from affected families in 2012, the Compliance Review Panel conducted a 17-month investigation, which concluded that many of those who were relocated were impoverished by an ill-conceived resettlement process that failed to provide adequate compensation, infrastructure at resettlement sites and assistance to restore lost incomes and livelihoods,” Eang Vuthy said in an earlier statement.

“Yet, hundreds of families in Phnom Penh and Poipet, who were considered ‘partially-affected’ and allowed to remain temporarily in the right-of-way, have found themselves living in cramped conditions – many with less than 30 square meters of living space - and no security that they won’t be forcibly evicted in the future,” the statement says. “Other families still remain in the corridor of impact and refuse to move the resettlement site some 20-kilometers away from their current homes, where they have seen their former neighbors driven into destitution.”

Families are also angered at the choice of relocation sites. Under the original 2006 resettlement plan for the project, such sites were not to be more than five kilometers from the homes of those affected by the project. “Yet, in 2010 ADB ignored the concerns raised by affected households and non-governmental organizations monitoring the resettlement process and approved an updated plan that dropped the two closest sites, leaving as the only option the notorious Trapeang Anhchanh site, some 20 kilometers outside the city-center,” the statement says.

Eng Vuthy and Sim Virak recently returned from Manila, where they met with ADB officials in an effort to find solutions for the families, following the latest complaint.