More than 500 villagers from Pursat province’s Bakan district lodged a complaint with the Asian Development Bank on Tuesday over their exclusion from the bank’s emergency rice distributions conducted in early November, a human rights group said.
The new complaints join hundreds more across several provinces claiming unfair distributions by commune and village officials in the ADB funded program.
Bin Sareoung, provincial coordinator of Human Rights Vigilance in Cambodia, said Wednesday that he had helped 516 poor villagers from eight villages in Boeng Bot Kandorl commune file a formal complaint with the ADB, accusing local officials of bias in their selection of food aid recipients.
He said irregularities had taken place all over the province during the distribution period, adding that hundreds more villagers in Sampov Meas district had contacted Vigilance and would also file complaints.
“We want the ADB to go down to the villages to investigate the complaints,” Bin Sareoung said,
ADB spokesman Kim Chanta said the bank had received the complaint from Vigilance and that all the complaints had been referred to the ADB’s National Project Management Unit, which is run by the Ministry of Finance.
Kim Chanta said the ADB had received 51 complaints, which were being investigated locally by provincial project authorities, who are also government officials.
He added that it was premature to comment on the complaints or the execution of the investigation by provincial authorities.
The ADB rice distribution was highlighted in an advertisement in the International Herald Tribune newspaper Wednesday as an example of corruption in Cambodia.
“The poor were left empty-handed because their names were not on the lists made available to the ADB. This exemplifies corruption as it occurs everywhere,” wrote Dr Beat Richner, director of the Kantha Bopha children’s hospital, in the advertisement.
Despite the continuing criticism of the ADB project, Ly Thuch, second vice president for the National Committee for Disaster Management, said that after a recent meeting with the ADB’s provincial project managers, who are local officials, the NCDM has concluded that the rice distribution to 68,000 families in seven provinces was “very successful.”
Banteay Meanchey Deputy Governor and ADB provincial project manager Pok Salny said villagers who had complained in his area did not understand the conditions of the rice distributions.
“Perhaps someone incited the villagers to protest,” he said.