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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Rail concerns on ADB radar

Rail concerns on ADB radar

The Asian Development Bank says it is working with the government to address problems at resettlement sites connected to a bank-funded railway refurbishment project, following the drowning of two children at one such area last month.

In a statement issued late yesterday, the ADB said it was in “constant dialogue with the Government to address and resolve any other outstanding resettlement issues known to us”.

“ADB’s position is to ensure compliance with the ADB safeguard policy by providing additional support to the government agencies concerned,” it said. “ADB will more closely monitor the situation.”

It said issues at the resettlement site were being “actively addressed” through dialogue with the government’s Inter-ministerial Resettlement Committee.

Concerns about the resettlement policy were raised last month, after Hut Heap, 13, and her 9-year-old brother, Hut Hoeub, drowned in a pond at a Battambang relocation site.

After the incident, a coalition of NGOs wrote to the heads of the ADB and the Australian development agency AusAID, which is also funding part of the project, expressing “grave concerns” about the treatment of residents affected by it.

The coalition claimed the Battambang site lacked access to clean water and electricity and called on the ADB and AusAID to “temporarily halt funding tranches” until similar problems at all relocation sites were solved. Rights groups claim an estimated 4,000 families will ultimately make way for the project.

At the time, Nora Lindstrom, an adviser for the housing rights group Sahmakum Teang Tnaut, one of the signatories of the letter, told The Post her group had documented cases in which households had received “as little as a few hundred dollars” in compensation in addition to a plot of land at a relocation site.

Such a small amount has not allowed families to rebuild their homes to “adequate standards”, she said, adding that many families had been forced to borrow money to survive.

In its statement yesterday, the ADB claimed electricity had been installed at the Battambang site since September and that “all relocated families have access to power”. It also claimed families had access to subsidised drinking water through the IRC, which delivers it to the site through a private water supplier.

Involved rights groups declined to comment on the ADB response late yesterday.

The ADB has approved US$84 million in loans for the project, and AusAID has contributed an additional $21.5 million in grants. Railway lines connecting Kampot to Sihanoukville and Phnom Penh to Battambang are being refurbished in a process that is expected to be completed in 2013.

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