ADB Confirms Receipt of Latest Request From Railway Families

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has received a complaint from 22 Cambodians who say the lender is falling short in its efforts to fix the mistakes it has made in planning and carrying out its ongoing rehabilitation of the country’s dilapidated railway tracks.

The families submitted their request to the bank’s compliance review panel in Manila this week and ADB Cambodia director Eric Sidgwick acknowledged receipt on Tuesday evening.

“In the complaint, the households request resettlement assistance and compliance review. More information is being sought from the complainants, in line with ADB policy, so their concerns can be fully and independently assessed,” he said in an email.

The panel now has several weeks to decide whether the complaint falls within its mandate and if it is eligible for a review.

The ADB declined to comment on the complaints themselves.

Following an earlier complaint from some of the roughly 1,000 families already evicted to make way for the project, the compliance review panel in early 2014 conceded that the ADB’s mistakes had pushed many of them deeper into debt at far-away, ill-equipped resettlement sites. The bank was left in breach of its own policy that families affected by its projects not be left worse off than before, and soon put together an action plan to set things right.

The 22 people who filed the new complaint say the plan is not working. They say they are either still facing eviction, or have already lost pieces of their property that lay within the tracks’ new right-of-way.

Among their demands is an improved system for filing complaints about their compensation for land lost and a chance to lodge appeals against the compensation they have been offered. They are asking for more and better infrastructure at the resettlement sites—including clinics, schools and wells—and an additional plan to fix the shortcomings of the current one.

Nov Sreyda, one of the 22 complainants, said the government, which is officially in charge of the railway project, is urging her to leave her home in Phnom Penh’s Russei Keo district for the Trapaing Anhchanh resettlement site on the outskirts of the city in exchange for $1,600. She is holding out for $8,000 and a new plot of land much closer to where she lives now.

“They want me to move to another location, but Trapaing Anhchanh is too far away and there is no way to do business there to make a better life,” she said. “I’m scared to relocate because it will be hard to do business there. There are no factories, no schools.”

Ms. Sreyda said the ordeal had made her lose faith in the ADB.

“Before, I thought the ADB would give me good compensation,” she said. “But I think they stay quiet now and are conspiring with the government not to increase our compensation.”

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