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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Rail upgrade will uproot hundreds

Rail upgrade will uproot hundreds

Tuol Kork residents on Tuesday walk past one of many houses marked for demolition as part of the Singapore-Kunming rail project that is expected to affect several neighbourhoods.

Plans to repair or rebuild sections of the Kingdom's rail lines will require the removal of homes located too close to the tracks, officials say, and residents fear they will receive no compensation.

GOVERNMENT plans to upgrade the Kingdom's railway lines could see the dislocation of hundreds of families in four communes in the capital, residents said Tuesday.

The plans, agreed in June by a joint venture by Australia's Toll Holdings and the Royal Group, include a major upgrade to the Kingdom's two principal lines running between Phnom Penh and Poipet, and between the capital and Sihanoukville.

The upgrade is part of a larger project to integrate Cambodia into the Trans-Asian Railway network that is to connect Singapore to Kunming, China.

Svay Chinda, from Boeung Kak 1 commune in Daun Penh district, said she does not oppose the plans, but that she must be fairly compensated for the loss of her home.

"My house will be impacted once they begin clearing away the land 3.5 metres on either side of the tracks," she said. "I am not against this plan, but authorities should think about how to compensate us fairly."

Veth Darith, chief of Boeung Kak 1 commune, said the government has only just begun to assess the potential impact of improvements on residents in his commune.

"Our subcommittee is beginning to study [this], and they've begun in my commune before continuing on to others," he said.

"We must clear 3.5 metres of land on either side of the tracks. On our first day of study, we identified 50 out of 2,408 families that will be affected by the project," he said.

Veth Darith added that he had no information about compensation, and that he was only responsible for conducting the impact study.

The railway project will affect residents in three Daun Penh district communes, Veth Darith said, including Boeung Kak 1, Boeung Kak 2 and Srah Chak, as well as Teuk Lak 1 commune in Tuol Kork district.

Chreang Sophan, deputy governor of Phnom Penh, could not be reached for comment on Tuesday, but Yit Bunna, an undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Public Works and Transportation, said the government has no obligation to offer compensation.

"We are asking people to remove their homes from state-owned land," he said.

"We have no compensation for them. We can only provide money to help them relocate or pull down their homes."

Penh Samrith, also from Boeung Kak 1 commune, said authorities gave no advance warning of the threat to residents' homes.

"We are simple people. No one explained the government plans to us. They just came to us and said that within a week they would set a deadline for us to leave," she said.

The railway upgrade is being funded by a US$42 million loan from the Asian Development Bank approved in March.

Cambodian authorities have estimated the total cost of the project at about $73 million, with some additional funds coming from the government.

Approximately 600 kilometres of the Kingdom's railway lines were damaged or destroyed during more than two decades of civil war, according to information compiled by the ADB.

Paul Power, an adviser to the Cambodian government and a project leader for the ADB's involvement in the railway upgrade, said last week that integrating Cambodia into the TAR network would provide substantial economic advantages.

"It makes Cambodia the hub of transportation between China and Singapore," he said.



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