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An uncertain future for residents living along the railway to National Road 6

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Residents along the railway already dwell in very small houses, which will be made even tinier once the road expansion is underway. Moeun Nhean

An uncertain future for residents living along the railway to National Road 6

Ever since Prime Minister Hun Sen’s announcement calling for the City Hall to evaluate the railway from Boeung Kak to National Road 6, and develop a new road connection, the hundreds of residents along the railroad seem to be keeping mum and resigning to their fate.

Heang Sokun, community manager for Equitable Cambodia, who works with many poor communities in Phnom Penh, said that the prime minister, speaking at the launch of the new City Hall administrative building on April 5, had asked the City Hall to evaluate the possibility of a railway renovation from Boeung Kak to National Road 6 by building another traffic connection as a means to decrease traffic congestion along National Road 5, from Chroy Chongvar bridge to Kilometer 6 – the midpoint from the railway to National Road 5 in the capital’s north.

In a post written on June 4 on Pa Socheatvong’s official Facebook page, the Phnom Penh governor said, “The construction of the roads on both sides of the railway from National Road 5 to R6 street (Boeung Kak) will be 5.62 kilometres long and 7 metres from the railway. The research groups have to further study the effects and techniques. The team will be conducting a field trip next week.”

A 40-year old resident, Ra, who owns a house along the railway, expressed his concern because he “has heard about the development on this road” but “we don’t know what they’re going to do. If they evict us, we would not know where to go”.

Without further explanations, Ra started his bike and rode away after a last feeble comment: “We are poor citizens. We don’t have any rights to protest against them. We’ll just have to do what they tell us to.”

Sokun explained, “Our organization has only worked with four of the ten communities along this railway.” He added, “In those four communities, there are 584 families, with a total of 1,748 people, 1,641 of whom are women.”

“The majority of people living in those four communities will be affected by the road expansion because their houses are already very small, almost next to the railway,” he said.

Another resident, a 50-year-old man who refused to give his identity, said his family has lived around the railway since 1979.

“Most of the people living here are poor, so they have to get by. The local authorities don’t say anything, but they don’t hand out our land titles. Only a handful here have their land titles,” he lamented.

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