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‘Make way for railway’: officials

Banteay Meanchey provincial authorities have pledged to expedite the relocation of 900 families living along a stretch of railroad near Cambodia’s border with Thailand in order to facilitate the development of an international railway system, a senior official said yesterday.

Deputy Governor Chong Pheth made the comments following a meeting between an inter-ministerial committee, local authorities and villagers on Tuesday about resettlement.

The Cambodia Railroad Renovation Plan is part of efforts to construct the Kunming-Singapore Railway, a massive planned network that would connect mainland China with several cities in Southeast Asia.

Pheth said that a slew of land disputes, stretching from Battambang to Poipet, have slowed down construction progress in the Kingdom, though more families were now agreeing to take relocation packages.

“Some people have agreed to [move] and take land in new locations, which have been arranged by authorities,” he said, adding that citizens in the area near Poipet have cooperated particularly well.

Chong noted, however, that mistrust between residents and authorities have complicated matters elsewhere. He added that while NGOs have worked to help educate people and ensure their rights, some “opportunists” have lobbied villagers to reject deals proposed to them by local authorities.

Sisophon community representative Som San said that he welcomed the government’s renewed efforts on the issue, but urged it to provide good services at relocation sites.

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