Families Seek Information Over Railway Plan

Residents living along a stretch of long-abandoned train track protested outside their homes on Thursday and submitted a petition to City Hall about a planned road that could lead to evictions, but left without any assurances after a meeting with officials.

Sam Vireak, 47, who has lived along the railway since 2007 and was representing 1,000 families, said a “serious negotiation” was needed between the authorities and the communities.

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Women along a railroad in Phnom Penh’s Russei Keo district Thursday’sign a petition against a planned road that could lead to evictions. (Leng Len/The Cambodia Daily)

Yet Mr. Vireak said his request was ignored and the officials proposed a very “unpromising” plan.

In December, then city governor Pa Socheatvong promised that any villagers displaced by the new 5 km road in Phnom Penh’s Russei Keo district would receive compensation or alternate living arrangements.

Mr. Socheatvong was replaced last month and the railways families have been left with uncertainty.

On Thursday morning, about 50 people gathered to protest in Russei Keo district were met by about a dozen security guards and deputy district governor Prach Seiha, who urged them to “trust us, trust the authorities…please wait and see.”

Seven representatives of the protesters then spent half an hour inside talking with seven officials, including deputy governor Mean Chanyada, but claimed they were once again given no concrete promises.

El Chantha, a 60-year-old snack seller who moved near the railway in 1997, said she wanted a “reasonable” compensation of $7,000, a house and a plot of land should she be evicted to make way for the road, which officials say will alleviate traffic on the congested National Road 5.

“I am hoping to see the authority have a serious talk with us. They should lay out their plan with us, what they are going to do here,” said Ms. Chantha, a mother of seven adult children.

Mr. Chanyada, the deputy governor, could not be reached for comment.

Sia Phearum, executive director of the Housing Rights Task Force, an NGO that opposes forced evictions, expressed concern over the lack of information about the development plan.

He recommended establishing a committee involving the community to address the plan. “The authority should not keep silent,” he said.

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Correction: A previous version of this article gave an incorrect location for the residents’ protest.

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