Human Rights / Land Grabs / News

Families Evicted By Rail Project Kept In The Dark

by Zsombor Peter  /  The Cambodia Daily
Cambodians sitting along railroad tracks outside their shanty homes in the Boeng Kak slum area of Phnom Penh in 2009. (NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images)

Cambodians sitting along railroad tracks outside their shanty homes in the Boeng Kak slum area of Phnom Penh in 2009. (NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images)

More than two dozen NGOs have written to the head of the Asian Development Bank demanding the immediate release of a draft plan the ADB has drawn up to help Cambodian families evicted to make way for a bank-funded railway rehabilitation project. 

They also want the bank to give those families a bigger say in what the final plan will look like.

The approximately 1,000 families were forced to move out of homes they built on or near the country’s long-neglected train tracks to make room for the $143 million project. Most were sent to resettlement sites, where they have been pressured into taking on large debts to rebuild. The ADB recently finished drafting a plan to help them, after admitting in February that the bank bore much of the blame for their plight. But it has refused to show a copy of the plan to the families, who were not included in the drafting process.

In their statement on Friday to ADB President Takehiko Nakao, who is also chairman of the bank’s board, the 27 NGOs said the bank was falling short of its own policies on public disclosure.

“Regrettably, ADB has once again failed to take these responsibilities seriously in the process of developing remedial actions” for the evictees, they said.

“ADB has merely stated that it will share its [plan] and seek feedback once it has been submitted to the [ADB] board. We are concerned that at that point affected people will no longer have an op­portunity to influence the measures intended to remediate the harms they themselves have experienced.”

The NGOs signed on to the statement include Global Witness, the Housing Rights Task Force and Equitable Cambodia.

“As chairperson of the [ADB] board, we urge you to ensure that management disclose its draft re­medial action plan…and provide an adequate opportunity for meaningful consultation with affected people and their representatives,” they said.

The ADB did not reply to a re­quest for comment.

The families themselves submitted a similar request to the ADB last Wednesday, and threatened to protest in front of the bank’s Phnom Penh offices if they were not provided with a copy of the ac­tion plan within seven days.

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