Whither 104/105?

Day after the fire

Early October

Nov. 28, 2010. On Mar. 8, 2010, a fire ripped through communities 104 and 105 located along the main railway line in Phum 22, Sangkat Boeung Kak 2, Khan Toul Kok, Phnom Penh. 187 houses – home to some 257 families – were affected. Immediately after the fire, affected households sought shelter in the adjacent Wat Neak Von and were given food and other necessities by the Cambodian Red Cross.

For a while, Phnom Penh Municipality proposed some on-rebuilding combined with relocation for most residents. These offers were however withdrawn, and as the rainy season commenced, affected families began rebuilding, largely on the sites of their former houses.

On Sep. 21, 2010, notice 091/10 from the Phnom Penh Municipality, Tuol Kork District, notified residents:

“The office of Tuol Kork district informs those who live in the said location that a certain side space of railroads in Phnom Penh are determined 10 meters from the axis of the railroads.

Therefore, those who have built houses on the side space of the railroad must remove them right away in order to ensure safety and help cooperation with restoration of railroad business in future.

In case you don’t follow this notice, the authority will take administrative measures and will not be responsible for any damage or loss of your properties.”

“Administrative measures” is a well-established euphemism for eviction.

While the community is yet to be evicted, the eviction notice, along with the general situation facing the community, raises a number of issues.

1. The Corridor of Impact (COI) of the ongoing railway rehabiliation only extends to 3.5m on both sides of the railway axis and resettlement impacts are said to be confined to this COI. Any resettlement from the COI has to conform to ADB Involuntary Resettlement Policy Safeguards, meaning, among other things, that it cannot occur before compensation has been paid and the resettlement site is complete. The 10m eviction notice is in clear violation of this.

2. The Right of Way (ROW) of the railway extends to 20m from the railway axis in urban Phnom Penh. The ROW is state public land. While resettlement impacts of the railway project are currently confined to the COI, a covenant to the agreement between the ADB and Royal Government of Cambodia requires any resettlement from the ROW to conform to ADB’s Involuntary Resettlement Safeguards in perpetuity. Any eviction from the ROW at any time that does not conform to the safeguards is thus a violation of the covenant.

3. Around half of the communities’ households live beyond the ROW. This is not state public land, but land residents presumably have possession rights to according to the Cambodian Land Law of 2001.

Currently, the community is attempting to meet with Phnom Penh Municipality to discuss the situation and the issue has also been raised with the ADB and AusAID. So far, however, there has been little progress in resolving this complex issue, and the community members remain in danger of being doubly dispossessed.