In a letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen, government ministers have recommended a Chinese-owned company take the reins of the multi-million dollar Phnom Penh airport expressway, amid ongoing frustrations from residents who may be impacted by the development.
Henan Provincial Communications Planning Survey and Design Institute had the edge on local bidders Hohibbah Engineering and Overseas Cambodian Investment Company (OCIC), according to a letter co-authored by the Ministry of Public Works, the Phnom Penh Municipality and Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Keat Chhon.
Henan proposed an expressway of 10 kilometres, at a height of 9 metres, above existing railway lines to Phnom Penh International Airport, signalling it would invest almost $260 million in total, with $197 million allocated for construction.
The company did not specify how the remaining $63 million would be spent, but government officials predicted a more generous compensation package compared to OCIC’s bid, which said it would give $5 million to affected residents out of a total investment of $215 million.
“Because the project is greatly important and the huge compensation budget package is needed . . . Henan Company is the most likely to be selected,” the letter stated.
OCIC, in contrast, proposed a five-metre-high, 13.5-kilometre-long project – a longer stretch that could potentially impact a greater number of people – while Hohibbah Engineering failed to give details on its plan for the government report.
But for people living along the proposed route, the letter to the prime minister was yet another attempt to delay a promised public meeting on the controversial project, as the Ministry of Public Works and Transport said it would not schedule the forum with locals until the premier allowed it and a company had been chosen.
Roughly 100 people from eight communities gathered in front of the ministry yesterday in a bid to make them keep their March 7 promise to hold a public forum within two weeks.
Representative Meas Sreymom said that she had again been let down by the government. “Local authorities hid the information from [the residents] . . . They have not discussed the development with the people and heard their concerns of losing their houses,” she said.
Director of the Housing Rights Task Force Sia Phearum said it was a sign of “weakness” if the ministry could not make a decision without the premier’s stamp of approval.
“[The ministry] does not even dare to make a decision over such a case, and it needs to bother the prime minister, who is very busy – it is the weakness of the ministry,” Phearum said.
Resident representative Nu Sarin said if people were forced to move, there needed to be ample compensation, and the relocation site should be within 5 kilometres of their former home.
“I think the compensation of the OCIC is not enough, but I can’t say anything when we don’t know how many families will be affected. This is why we need the ministry to prepare a public forum to give information to the people,” he said.
A primary report suggested 1,000 families would be affected, but urban housing NGO Sahmakum Teang Tnaut executive director Ee Sarom suggested it could be up to 2,000 families.
Additional reporting by Erin Handley