Government Undecided on New Resettlement Sites for Evictees

A Finance Ministry official said on Sunday that the government had yet to decide whether it would comply with Asian Development Bank (ADB) rules that families facing eviction from along the country’s old railway tracks be offered resettlement options better than the ones they have now.

The government has set up several resettlement sites for the roughly 1,000 families that have left—or have yet to leave—their homes to make way for the rehabilitation of the long-abandoned tracks, which the ADB is mostly funding. But the families have complained that the sites are ill-equipped and far from job opportunities that would allow them to earn as much as they did before, forcing them to take on debt.

Last month, the ADB’s Compliance Review Panel rejected a request from some of the families for a review of the bank’s joint plan with the government to bring the railway project into compliance with ADB rules meant to ensure that the families its projects affect do not end up worse off than they were before. At the same time, the panel made it clear that families that don’t want to move to the existing sites have the right to resettlement options closer to their homes along the tracks.

Any new resettlement sites would have to be set up and run by the government’s Inter-Ministerial Resettlement Committee.

Contacted on Sunday, the deputy director of the Finance Ministry’s resettlement department, Sim Samnang, said the government had yet to decide whether to comply with the conditions for new sites and to date had not even considered the idea.

“We have not considered this point yet. We have to discuss with the ADB,” he said, declining to share his own thoughts on the matter.

The ADB country team, asked about the prospects of new resettlement sites, failed to provide a clear answer.

“ADB is working with the government to ensure the remedial actions are implemented in full,” it said in a prepared statement last week.

“Based on the remedial actions agreed with the government, the government has improved facilities at the resettlement sites and also continues the implementation of the expanded income restoration program. ADB continues to discuss with the government the 30-square-meter issue and its implementation.”

The review panel has ruled that families that have had to give up only a piece of their land to the railway project, but ended up with a total of less than 30 square meters, should be compensated the same as if they had lost all their land.

Equitable Cambodia, one of the NGOs helping the families, said it hoped the ADB and the government would provide more resettlement choices.

“Now that the Compliance Review Panel has clearly stated that people have a right to choose resettlement options that will not make them worse off, we hope ADB and the government will get to work finding a fair solution for these families who have been living under threat of demolition for nearly 10 years,” said Eang Vuthy, the group’s executive director.

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