Villagers Complain of Unfair Compensation in Railway Project

Dozens of families in Banteay Meanchey province’s Poipet City facing displacement as part of a government railway rehabilitation project said yesterday that the process by which villagers are compensated is un­fair and not transparent.

San Seanhor, chief of Poipet commune, said that more than 700 families were eligible for monetary and land compensation as part of their removal from an area where 43 km of railroad is to be laid between Serei Saophoan City and the Thai border.

But at least 30 families in the area whose land overlaps with the railway’s construction say they have not been offered new land even though their living space stands to be significantly reduced.

“The resolution is being made without transparency,” said Lok Soeurng, 48, a representative of 10 families in the area. “The authorities and IRC officials I met early last month offered me a small amount of cash [$250] for losing a lot of land.”

Chhou Sokvoan, another villager who has been offered no land as part of the government’s resolution package, said he had only been offered $98 by au­thorities and had refused to agree to the compensation deal.

“We are not opposing the government’s restoration project. We just want a fair resolution to be made for villagers,” he said.

Commune chief Mr Seanhor said that 90 percent of the identified families had agreed to a compensation deal and the re­maining 10 percent were still in negotiations.

“Our government…is resolving the issues affecting the families in a fair and transparent manner,” he said, adding that displacement will start in November.

Planning for the $141 million project has been in the works since 2006, with much of the funding coming from the Asian Development Bank. The aim is to repair the entire 652 km of Cambodia’s railway network.

Once the line between Kam­­pot and the capital is complete in October, repairs will begin on a stretch that runs between Phnom Penh and Serei Sao­phoan City, opening the door for a connection with Thailand.

ADB spokesman Kim Chan­­­­­tha said no work on the project would be carried out be­fore a fair deal is drawn up with locals.

“It is an ADB principle that whenever the resolution has not been finalized, the project will not start,” he said.

Soum Chankea, provincial coordinator for local rights group Adhoc, said that while nearly 90 percent of villagers had agreed to compensation, the amount being dispersed was unequal and not publicly disclosed.

“Villagers are not being vacated yet, but they are being un­fairly treated in the level of compensation coming from the committee,” he said, adding that so far 10 families had filed complaints with his organization over the matter.

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