ADB Gives Update on Aid for Railway Families

The government has finished calculating the additional compensation it will pay out to some of the families forced to move for a $143 million railway rehabilitation project being funded mostly by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), according to a new report.

The report, released this week by the ADB, lays out in broad strokes the progress made on a government-approved action plan to help the roughly 4,000 families who lost all or part of their land along the old railway tracks to make way for the project.

It’s the first update from the ADB since releasing the action plan in April, and covers the progress made to the end of July.

As part of the railway project, the government originally measured out how much land each family would have to lose to determine the compensation to give them, but produced an amount that the ADB later admitted was not enough.

According to the new report, the government’s Inter-Ministerial Resettlement Committee has finished reviewing the original measurements and its contracts with affected households along the railway’s southern line, which runs from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville.

It also says the committee has reviewed measurements along some parts of the much longer northern line, from Phnom Penh to the Thai border at Poipet City.

The report says the committee has “completed the computation of compensation deficits” for the same households. It does not say how many households that is, however, or how much additional compensation those families can expect.

The committee has also started reviewing the facilities at its five resettlement sites for evictees for possible upgrades, another condition of the April action plan, according to the progress report.

It says the committee is working with the Health Ministry to bring a health clinic at the Phnom Penh resettlement site, singled out for its especially dilapidated condition, up to national standards. The clinic was not even open when reporters visited the site in April.

The report says the ADB has hired a consultant to produce a plan by which the evictees would help operate and maintain the facilities at the resettlement sites themselves. It has also started work on a plan that would extend an ongoing project that helps evictees earn extra cash past its present March 2015 expiration date.

The action plan followed the ADB’s admission in February to major flaws in its design and implementation of the railway rehabilitation project, flaws that ultimately made families who lost land worse off, a breach of bank policy.

Rights groups helping the families, however, say the action plan the ADB released in April to address those flaws does not go nearly far enough and would still leave the families worse off. They recommended a raft of changes to the plan in May, but this week’s report suggests that none of them were taken on board.

The action plan does not include compensation for income the families lost out on, or steps to help them pay off the debt they took on because of the evictions.

This week’s progress report says that efforts to address those omissions in the plan are ongoing.

The ADB on Wednesday declined to say what progress has been made since the end of July.

(Additional reporting by Aun Pheap)

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