Independent report raises questions about railways compensation

Jul. 4, 2011, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Local urban NGO Sahmakum Teang Tnaut has released a new report entitled Rehabilitation of Cambodia’s Railways: Comparison of Field Data. The report, which is a final draft pending possible expansion of its scope, compares independently gathered household data from four communities located along the tracks in Phnom Penh to data gathered by the Inter-Ministerial Resettlement Committee (IRC) in charge of the resettlement of households along the railways.

Based on comparative data from 70 households, the report finds significant and widespread anomalies in the data gathered by the IRC. In the majority of cases, data collected by STT shows households are eligible to receive higher rates of compensation than those proffered by the IRC. Main findings include systematic downgrading of structure types leading to lower compensation rates, a higher number of affected households than the IRC, and discrepancies in living allowances proffered by the IRC.

“The findings of this report suggest not only that affected households may not be receiving their full compensation under the existing resettlement plans, but also that the compensation as specified in the plans is low and unlikely to allow households to maintain their current living standard post-resettlement,” said Nora Lindstrom, Programme Development Manager at Sahmakum Teang Tnaut. “Given the systematic anomalies highlighted in the report, we believe all resettlement activities should be suspended, pending an independent review of the resettlement plans and processes.”
“People in my community have been offered less than US$500 in compensation, which won’t be enough for them to build a new house in shanghai at the relocation site, especially because it is so far away,” said Van Narith, community representative from Mittapheap.

“It is difficult for us to know if the compensation offered to us is correct, because we do not have access to the Detailed Measurement Survey, so we cannot check,” said Yong Maly, community representative for Toul Sangke A. “74 families in my community have already submitted complaints to the Grievance Mechanism, but none of the cases have been resolved.”

The ongoing Asian Development Bank (ADB) and AusAID-funded project to rehabilitate Cambodia’s railways was approved in 2006. The ADB reports the total investment cost of the project is US$141.6 million, of which US$84 million is ADB assistance and US$21.5 million comes from the Government of Australia as equivalent funds. The project is set to affect thousands of households living along the tracks throughout the country. Those affected are entitled to compensation based on resettlement plans prepared by the IRC, and approved by the ADB. One of the principles of the ADB’s involuntary resettlement safeguards is that the livelihoods of households affected by an ADB-funded project should be restored or enhanced relative to pre-project levels.

The ADB is not new to resettlement in Cambodia. The Bank’s recent involvement with the Highway One rehabilitation project also ended in widespread compensation issues prompting a belated livelihood restoration plan which has arguably still failed to restore or enhance lives for affected families.
“This report seems to indicate the ADB’s lack of capacity to supervise its own project as well as to learn from past mistakes,” commented Toshiyuki Doi, Representative Director of Mekong Watch who has been monitoring the Highway One project for a number of years. “The ADB’s goal should be to reduce Cambodia’s poverty, but is actually creating it.”

“Although resettlement activities have already begun in parts of the country, if remedial action is taken now, there is a chance widespread adverse effects on affected households along the railways can be prevented,” said Hallam Goad, Programme Development Advisor at Sahmakum Teang Tnaut. Download (PDF, 260 KB)


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