Hundreds of villagers from Battambang, Banteay Meanchey and Preah Sihanouk provinces joined evictees from the capital yesterday to protest in front of the Asian Development Bank’s office in Phnom Penh.
The demonstrators filed objections over their treatment as a result of the ADB-funded $143 million restoration of the country’s railway system, which has seen them evicted from their homes and left many worse off by relocation.
“Right now, the roads around our house flood in the rainy season because there is no drainage system,” Chho Savon, from Poipet, said of his new village. “We have taken loans to build our houses at the new site, so we need the ADB to pay for infrastructure.”
Protesters held banners yesterday demanding “necessary schools, health centres, infrastructure and drainage systems” in their communities.
Families began moving out of their homes to make way for the project in 2010.
Rights groups say resettlement plans were flawed from the very beginning.
A scathing report from the ADB’s internal watchdog released earlier this year slammed the bank for failing to ensure resettlement – carried out by the government with oversight from the bank – complied with its own
Families have said that, in addition to poor facilities at relocation sites, they weren’t paid adequately to account for lost income while moving and that payments did not account for inflation. Many say they fell into debt as a result.
Lim Chek, a 46-year-old community representative from Sihanoukville, said the ADB promised to have a meeting with villagers about its plans to remedy the situation. Instead, he said, government ministries simply mailed the board-approved action plan to residents.
But Eric Sidgwick, ADB’s country director, pledged yesterday that the bank would consult with affected families.
“We acknowledged receipt of the petition letter and comments received from representatives of affected households, and agreed to have further consultations with them with a view to addressing the concerns raised.”