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Group Calls for Halt to Railway Development Project

In this photo taken Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2010, a service train operated by Toll Royal Cambodia passes over a river, just south of the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh. An Australian joint venture has a 30-year lease to upgrade and operate Cambodia's railway, p

Bridges Across Borders says a project funded by the Asian Development Bank is displacing families to inadequate relocation sites and should be halted until proper sites can be found.

Cambodia’s railroads are in terrible condition, and renovation of rail lines could improve the movement of goods not only in the country but across the region.

However, thousands of families will be moved from their homes along the railway in the process.

Bridges Across Borders says the project is forcing families into deeper poverty, with some forced to take on debt from local money lenders in order to reconstruct their homes.

“The government should put a halt to the relocation of people until proper resettlement is in place,” said Eang Vuthy a project manager for Bridges Across Borders.

In all, more than 4,000 families will be affected by the project, a joint venture between an Australian company and Cambodia’s Royal Group that seeks to rehabilitate 650 kilometers of railway infrastructure. Around 1,200 families will have to move from home along the rails.

More than 80 percent of those interviewed by Bridges Across Borders said they had not received adequate compensation. Many said they were not consulted ahead of time.

Relocation and inadequate compensation have turned into long-running, violent protests for other displaced residents in the capital over the past few years, with real estate values increasing and more development projects under way.

Many of those who will be moved for the railway will have to leave the urban centers where they work, making it harder to earn a living, Eang Vuthy said.