Protesters Seek Answers on Planned Railway Road

About 30 villagers protested outside Phnom Penh’s City Hall on Tuesday, demanding an update on a road planned along a stretch of long-abandoned railroad tracks that could lead to more than 1,000 evictions, even as officials promised they would minimize the impact on residents.

Phnom Penh governor Pa Socheatvong announced plans in December for the new 5-km road in Russei Keo district, saying that displaced villagers would be given either compensation or alternate living arrangements.

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Protesters demanding information about a road set to be built along a stretch of railway in Phnom Penh shelter under umbrellas outside City Hall on Tuesday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

Mr. Socheatvong greeted the skeptical group that gathered outside City Hall on Tuesday seeking a meeting with him.

“I wanted to tell them, ‘Please don’t worry,’” said Met Measpheakdey, City Hall spokesman, who also attended the meeting. “The residents will have a lottery to receive a piece of land in the same area.”

Mr. Measpheakdey said authorities were still looking for sites to resettle the families, with the size and location of the plots to be determined by the lottery. The governor estimated that “more than 1,000 families are affected by the project,” he said.

Mr. Socheatvong previously announced plans for a road spanning 15 meters on each side of the railway, which he said had been reduced from 30 meters to mitigate the effects on residents.

But he told villagers on Tuesday that current plans still call for two 30-meter sides, but that authorities would consider reducing the width.

Authorities have already removed the old rail tracks, according to Mr. Measphea-

kdey. Officials said in December that the road, which they say is necessary to alleviate congestion on National Road 5, would take about five months to complete. Construction has not yet started.

The protesters remained skeptical of the governor’s announcement.

“I don’t really trust him. I think maybe it’s just an excuse to make us stop protesting,” said Meas Sreymom, a representative of the potential evictees who met with the governor.

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