About 60 residents from Phnom Penh and the provinces of Battambang, Banteay Meanchey and Preah Sihanouk who lost land or are in danger of losing land due to a railroad development project funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) protested outside its offices Thursday morning over a lack of representation in the bank’s assistance plan.
The protest, which was heated at times but not violent, was watched by riot police and Daun Penh district guards. After residents arrived, the ADB called in representatives of the group for a three-hour meeting.
The villagers also submitted a petition to the ADB calling for it to fulfill all of its commitments to resolve the harm done by the $143-million railway rehabilitation project, as well as to conduct meaningful consultation with the affected people regarding its Remedial Action Plan.
After admitting in February the bank had made “major” mistakes in its project, the ADB released a draft of its government-approved action plan in April. The plan was heavily criticized by both families and assisting NGOs for not fulfilling the compliance panel’s recommendations or the ADB’s own safeguard policies that ensure those affected by development projects do not end up worse than when the project began.
According to Sim Virak, a community representative from Tuol Sangke commune in Phnom Penh, “the people who moved live in bad conditions. We do not have infrastructure, schools, roads or hospitals.”
The ADB has said talks over how to compensate the families are underway, but according to a June 6 complaint by the affected residents, the talks have been one-sided.
“The affected people were not consulted; rather we were merely informed of the implementation of the existing [action plan], which did not address our concerns and comments,” the petition reads.
Country director Eric Sidgwick responded to the protest by agreeing to again meet with the residents.
“We acknowledge receipt of the petition letter and comments received from representatives of affected households, and agreed to have further consultations with them with a view to addressing the concerns raised,” he said by email.
(Additional reporting by Zsombor Peter)