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Railway relocation deadline

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Long Vanny, 52, removes possessions from her home yesterday in Tuol Sangke commune, in Phnom Penh’s Russey Keo district.

A deadline for relocation has been set for residents whose households will be affected by the controversial railway rehabilitation project in the capital’s Russei Keo district, with the government offering them money and land plots.

Sim Virak, a representative of the affected households, said yesterday the Ministry of Economy and Finance, the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, and the Ministry of Management, Urban Planning and Construction had ordered 28 families in Toul Sangke commune to be out of their houses by September 29.

“The ministries set the deadline for residents one month after they agreed to accept money and land on August 29,” Sim Virak said. He said that the families who agreed to relocate to an area set aside by the government in Trapaing Krasang commune of Sen Sok district would receive between US$600 and $900, in addition to land plots of about seven by 15 metres.  

As of yesterday, 18 of the 28 affected families had agreed to these terms, with four families already making the move, Sim Virak said, adding that the remaining 10 families had yet to decide.

Long Vanny, 52, said she had already agreed to accept compensation of $682 and had relocated to the Trapaing Krasang commune, where she received a standard plot of land.  “I moved my stuff and my children to the new place today. I was happy to accept [compensation and land] because I wanted to leave from that place [Russei Keo district]. It is very small for my big family,” she said.

“I don’t have enough money to build a new house yet, so I will use a tent. I will use this money [from the compensation] to make a small business selling vegetables at a market in Phnom Penh.”

Ouuch Leng, head of the land program for rights group Adhoc, said that he thought it was good that some villagers agreed to move without protesting. However, he said the government must not forget about the villagers once they move.

“We don’t want to see them abandoned like other villagers. They government has to give them suitable pay, as well as build good roads, a school and a hospital,” he said.

The railway rehabilitation project has been the subject of heated controversy due to disputes over compensation for families relocated to make way for it. The non-governmental organisation Sahmakum Teang Tnaut was suspended in early August, and two other NGOs received warnings from the government,  over a letter they sent to the Asian Development Bank questioning resettlement policies. The ADB and AusAID are funding the project.

Officials at the Ministry of Public Works and Transport could not be reached for comment yesterday.

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