Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Railway projects are now rising in Kampuchea. This is a most welcome news.
The days of Khmer Rouge pogrom on the Cambodian people is way behind us now, as a quarter of a century had elapsed since those gory days of Killing Fields. The intelligentsia, badly decimated by the genocide of the demonic regime, is now seeing new faces from among the younger generations, faces who comprise the emerging development stakeholders there.
Cambodia surely needs to catch up on building its infrastructures, more so the roads and railway networks. New Silk Roads are rising across the continent, and sooner or later the trade routes will traverse through the ASEAN.
Below is an update report on the railway projects, with resettlement issues as entry point to understanding the situation.
[Philippines, 06 July 2011]
ADB, Partners Agree on Plan to Resolve Cambodia Rail Resettlement Concerns
4 Jul 2011
MANILA, PHILIPPINES – The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and its development partners, including the Government of Cambodia, have agreed to a detailed, time bound action plan to resolve resettlement problems on a railway rehabilitation project.
ADB and the Government of Australia are providing over $100 million to help rehabilitate the country’s national railroad stretching from Sihanoukville in the south, through the capital Phnom Penh and up to the northern border with Thailand. Hundreds of families are being asked to move to make way for the line upgrade and many complaints and requests have been made by affected households over compensation rates, compensation payment and assistance, the readiness and adequacy of relocation sites and other issues.
Officials from ADB, the Australian Agency for International Development and the Government reviewed the progress of resettlement and concerns raised by the affected households in early June. They have now drawn up an agreement that sets out specific, tangible measures to be taken to address each of the concerns.
The agreement provides a time-bound action plan for responding to grievances and confirms that no affected households will be relocated until their complaints or requests have been addressed and basic facilities are provided at the resettlement site. An external monitoring group has examined compensation concerns and ADB will consider the findings and decide on further action by the end of July. A timetable for the completion of electricity, water supply and other basic facilities at relocation sites has been drawn up.
The parties have also agreed to an expansion of the income restoration program to fund livelihood support for resettled families.
“ADB is fully committed to ensuring that its resettlement guidelines are complied with so that families who relocate receive the appropriate support and are not economically disadvantaged.” said Kunio Senga, Director General of ADB’s Southeast Asia Department. “We will continue our discussion and close cooperation with the Government to ensure that the resettlement process complies with the agreed Resettlement Plan and ADB’s resettlement policy.”
ADB will also provide additional resources to support the resettlement program, including a communications specialist based in Cambodia to strengthen the information flows between all stakeholders.
Decades of conflict have left the railway in serious disrepair and by upgrading it into an international standard line the project will help lower freight costs, including for staple foodstuffs for the poor, as well as providing new investment and business opportunities. It will also form an integral section of the Greater Mekong Subregion’s southern economic corridor linking Thailand, Cambodia and Viet Nam, and make up part of a broader Pan-Asian rail route.
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