Scores of families in Russei Keo district’s Tuol Sangke commune were told by officials yesterday they had one month to demolish their homes and move to a relocation site in order to make way for railway construction, rights workers and villagers said yesterday.
During a meeting between villagers from five affected communities and officials from the commune and the Inter-Ministerial Resettlement Committee, at least 200 families were asked to thumbprint documents accepting the resettlement terms, said community representative Muong Sarith.
“Commune authorities gave the villagers 30 days to remove their houses if they agree to the compensation. If any family does not agree …the authority will clear their home and they will get nothing,” he said. Mr Sarith himself was offered about $100 to cover the demolition of his home and moving costs.
Ly Borin, deputy general director of the general department of railways at the Ministry of Transportation, noted that the land is state land and thus residents are not entitled to compensation.
Rights workers criticized the Asian Development Bank and the Australian Agency for International Development, which are funding the railway renovation, for failing to adequately monitor the situation.
“What is happening on the ground can only be described as forced evictions, which are prohibited under ADB’s Policy on Involuntary Resettlement and international law,” said David Pred, executive director of Bridges Across Borders Cambodia. “The households who have been threatened with demolition have not been meaningfully consulted about the resettlement plan and they have been offered totally inadequate compensation based upon flawed detailed measurement surveys.”
Karin Schelzig Bloom, ADB social sector specialist, said by e-mail yesterday that although the bank was not informed of the latest meeting, it had been assured by the Inter-Ministerial Resettlement Committee that the relocation site would be ready in time.