NGOs Press Railroad Partners On Resettlement of Villagers

A coalition of NGOs said yesterday that they had written to the heads of the Asian Development Bank and the Australian Agency for Inter­national Development to express concerns about the resettlement of villagers to make way for the rehabilitation of the railroad linking Cambodia to Thailand.

The statement, released by NGOs including Bridges Across Borders Cambodia and Sahma­kum Teang Tnaut, said the site, located at Prey Kon Tek village in Battambang City, had inadequate facilities and poor sanitation, conditions they linked to the deaths of two siblings.

“The brother and sister, 13 and 9 years of age, drowned in a nearby pond where they went to collect water for household chores be­cause piped water had not been installed,” the statement said.

Although the Inter-Ministerial Resettlement Committee was re­sponsible for resettling the families, the ADB and AusAID are responsible for ensuring that ADB guidelines are followed.

Nora Lindstrom, adviser at Sah­makum Teang Tnaut, said AusAID and the ADB had previously assured the NGOs the IRC was aware of their concerns.

“Unfortunately, we have not seen remedial actions taken by the [government], leading us to conclude that the process and methods of project supervision on the part of ADB and AusAID are ineffective, bordering on negligent.”

ADB spokeswoman Sothea Ros said yesterday that the organization deeply regretted the deaths of the two children. “ADB is committed to working with the government to address and resolve all resettlement-related issues that are brought to its attention,” Ms Ros said.

Fiona Cochaud, charge d’affairs at the Australian Embassy, said in an e-mail that AusAID would continue working to ensure that “the rights of affected people are protected,” and that the deaths of the two children were investigated.

Officials from the IRC and the Transport Ministry could not be reached or declined to comment.

(Additional reporting by Chhorn Chansy)

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