A coalition of NGOs said yesterday 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 that the site, located at Prey Kon Tek village in Battambang City, had inadequate facilities and poor sanitation, and linked its shortcomings with the deaths of two siblings four days after they moved there.
“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, or IRC, was responsible for resettling the families, the ADB and AusAID are responsible for ensuring that ADB guidelines for doing so 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.”
Attempts to communicate with the IRC directly had been unsuccessful, she added.
A spokeswoman for ADB, 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 in Phnom Penh, said in an e-mail that AusAID would “continue to work with the Asian Development Bank and the Cambodian Government to ensure that the rights of affected people are protected and that the deaths of the two children in Battambang are further investigated by the relevant Cambodian authorities.”
Officials from the IRC could not be reached.
Ly Borin, deputy general director of the general department of railways at the Ministry of Transport, said yesterday he was too busy to talk to a reporter.
(Additional reporting by Chhorn Chansy)