The public works project to
rebuild National Road 1 heading south from Phnom Penh to Neak Loeung has run into
trouble with resettling hundreds of roadside residents, and could be halted if
the government, Japanese aid and villagers can’t settle the dispute.
The 56km road from Phnom Penh to Neak Loeung is being improved at an
estimated cost of $75 million from a grant by Japan.
Road work started in November
2005 and is expected to be completed by March 2010.
The Cambodia Ministry of
Public Works and Transport is the agency in charge of executing the work. The
stretch from Neak Loeung to Bavet border gate with Vietnam was already improved with a
loan from the Asian Development Bank.
Public Works Director General
Chhin Kong Hien confirmed there are problems with the third phase of the
project from Koki market to Phnom Penh.
He said issues with residents along the roadside are not resolved and the
Japanese government is waiting to see a resolution before it starts the third
“If we cannot fix the
problems, I think construction activities will stop,” Kong Hien said.
Born Ban, a villager in Koki
Thom commune of Kien Svay district not far from Phnom Penh, said he had to move out of his roadside
home and farmland to a plot 2km back from the road. He received $480 government
“How can I make a living with
this money,” he said. In his old location he ran a roadside stall, which he
says brought in about two million riel ($500) a year.
Moeun Ngoeun, a widowed
mother of four, said her home will be moved very soon to allow for the road
works. Although she expects to get $500 compensation, she said that will not be
enough to build a home.
“I do not know where I will
be relocated to,” Ngoeun said, crying. “I have nothing in hand.”
An official of Japan
International Cooperation Agency (JICA) said JICA is not in charge of
“The government of Cambodia
is responsible for the compensation,” Yamashita Akira, JICA project advisor,
told the Post on March 3.
“JICA never pays for
compensation,” he said, adding that JICA followed its own “environmental and
social consultation” guidelines.
Akira said the government of Cambodia
prepared the relocation sites for people who had to be relocated, putting in a
drainage system, some toilets and an approach to the highway.
“We study carefully to try to
avoid any negative impact, but still there are some cases where we have to
mitigate the impact.
“We observed the impact
during the construction period and we have regular meeting with an inter-ministerial
resettlement committee,” Akira said.
He said about 4,000 families
live along the road from Phnom Penh
to Neak Leung and so far 400 families have been relocated.
The NGO Forum of Cambodia and
its affiliated Resettlement Action Network conducted a survey last August that
found more than 1,800 households were being resettled in the National Road 1
project. The NGOs said at the time that resettlement procedures and
compensation package were inadequate.
Chhit Sam Ath, executive
director of NGO Forum of Cambodia, said previous experience has shown road
projects are having devastating impacts on the livelihoods of local communities
due to inadequate compensation and resettlement practices.
Although in a February 27
statement Sam Ath said the forum welcomes development projects, he added, “We
fear that the NR1 project will repeat the mistakes of previous road projects in
“I hope that the finding of
our survey will help JICA and the governments of Cambodia
to address the serious difficulties that local people face,” said Kay Leak,
advisor of Conservation and Development of Cambodia, which participated in the NGO
“I believe that both JICA and the government
do not want to see the problem happening with resident along the roadside of