Over 100 Protest in Support of Families Cut Out of Rail Deal

More than 100 people protested Thursday outside Poipet City Hall in support of 50 families in Phsar Kandal commune who were passed over when the government offered compensation to residents who ceded land for a railway project that displaced some 4,000 families across the country.

The planned rehabilitation of the old railway line connecting Sihanoukville to the Thai border was heavily criticized by rights groups before $142 million in funds for the project were exhausted, leaving the Poipet to Phnom Penh stretch largely unfinished.

In March, the Asian Development Bank (ADB), which was the main funder of the railway rehabilitation, admitted that it made mistakes in planning the project but said that it would not be providing the additional $75 million needed to finish it.

One of Thursday’s protesters, 51-year-old Sot Sok, said that since construction began at the end of 2011, a total of 996 families have been impacted, yet only 630 families had been compensated. The 50 families in Phsar Kandal are among those who have missed out on compensation.

“We protested today to demand that the city governor compensates the 50 families because we have waited a long time for a solution. But authorities are not interested in our demand,” Mr. Sok said.

Poipet City governor Ngor Mengchroun invited the protesters inside the city office for talks but they refused, demanding that he come outside to negotiate in public view. When he did not appear, they returned home and promised to take up the protest again Friday.

Chhun Buntha, deputy director of the provincial intersectoral unit, said compensation had already been offered to all affected families, with the exception of 10 families still negotiating with authorities.

Leuk Sam Oeun, 33, a member of one of the 10 families, said they had been promised a plot of land measuring 7 meters by 15 meters plus $357 in cash but refused to accept it.

“[The] authorities have not implemented the policy of the Asian Development Bank,” he said.

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