Rail Evictees Threaten Protests Against ADB

Families evicted for a rail project funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) threatened to demonstrate if the bank does not show them its plan to improve their living conditions within one week.

About 1,000 families who built homes over the country’s long-neglected train tracks were evicted to make way for the $143 million project. Another 3,000 lost land to it. In February, the bank accepted responsibility for the added debt and hardships those families have endured. It recently finished preparing an action plan to help them, but it has not released it.

In a letter delivered to the ADB’s Phnom Penh office Wednesday, the families accuse country director Eric Sidgwick of breaking a promise to share the plan with them before it reached the bank’s board of directors.

The plan is expected to reach the board any day now, but the families have still not seen it.

“In the circumstance that a response is not received within [one week], demonstrations will be held in front of the ADB office until we receive an adequate response and solution to our requests,” the letter reads.

The families claim that Mr. Sidgwick promised at a February 11 meeting to share the plan with them before it reached the ABD board.

Khuon Prum Sarith, who was evicted from his Phnom Penh home in 2011, said he and 19 other representatives thumbprinted the letter and were acting on behalf of all 4,000 affected households from Phnom Penh, Banteay Meanchey, Battambang, Preah Sihanouk and Pursat.

“I am a victim affected by the evictions, so I should know about these things,” he said. “I want to know if he really has a conscience to solve this problem.”

Mr. Sidgwick acknowledged receiving the letter.

“We fully intend to honor our stated commitment to seek feedback from affected communities on proposed remedial actions as quickly as possible,” he said by email.

Mr. Sidgewick declined to say when families would be consulted, or whether he had promised to show them the action plan before it reached the ADB board.

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