Representatives of communities living along the railroad tracks in Phnom Penh waved banners and sang songs outside the Transportation Ministry on Monday, asking for clarification of plans to build an overhead expressway that they feared would further infringe upon their land and homes.
Eight communities living along the railway line in Tuol Kok and Daun Penh districts had been told that the ongoing rail renovations would encompass 3.5 meters on either side of the tracks, but grew concerned when Prime Minister Hun Sen announced last week that an overhead expressway would be built along the same route.
Also central to their concern is an image of the projected expressway that the communities say they obtained from City Hall, showing a cross section of a 35-meter-wide, eight-lane roadway built on three different levels.
“We want to understand the plan before we agree to follow it,” Neang Phanit said outside the ministry.
“We want the Ministry of Public Works and Transportation to hold a public forum for us and tell us about the master plan, the impacts and their policy regarding those families that will lose their land,” he added. “We need to learn about it before construction begins.”
City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche denied that his office had provided the communities with a rendering of the project. He confirmed that the government had given approval “in principle” for the expressway to be built above the rail, but said there was no plan to extend the previously specified 3.5 meters on either side of the tracks.
“I never gave that to them,” Mr. Dimanche said of the image of the highway. “They just got it from the company when it made a presentation to City Hall. It does not represent any plan.
“We haven’t even started to study this properly, so I have nothing to say.”
At the protest, Pov Lathy, the ministry’s director of administration, told the communities they had not been forgotten but then also suggested that any negative effects they might experience were for the greater good.
“If it was my house and the state needed 3 meters to build the road, I would share it,” he told them. “Why can’t you join the state in developing the country?”