Village 1: Calling for Answers

Jan. 27, 2011.

Village 1 in Phnom Penh’s Boeung Kak area used to be a lively village with several popular restaurants, a number of fish farms, and close to 250 homes. Since Shukaku Inc. was granted a 99-year lease to the area in 2007, the village has turned into a sand pit. The majority of residents have been forced to leave as mud pumped into the former lake has inundated their homes. Most faced no other choice than to accept the US$8500 cash compensation offered by the company.

27 households living in Groups 8 and 9 remain in Village 1. Located along the railway track flanking Boeung Kak, the 27 homes have been submerged in water for months. Unlike their neighbours, however, these households are being refused compensation by Shukaku Inc. Instead, the company has referred the households to Toll Royal Railways (TRR), the contractor for the Asian Development Bank and AusAID-funded rehabilitation of the railways.

Attempts to discuss the issue with TRR have been unsuccessful. On Nov. 12, 2010 TRR CEO David Kerr was quoted in the Cambodia Daily as saying that “Toll is not responsible for the relocation of any of the residents.”

That may not be entirely accurate. The below map appears to show the TRR concession along the railway tracks extends to at least 10m both sides of the tracks. All 27 households in Groups 8 and 9 are located at least partly in this area, and all are located within the railway’s right-of-way (20m on both sides of the track).

The Loan Agreement between the Kingdom of Cambodia and the ADB, Schedule 5.B.4, requires the Borrower to ensure that “all Works contracts under the Project incorporate provisions to ensure that contractors [inter alia …] comply with all applicable laws and regulations of the Borrower, including ratified international treaty obligations.” This includes compliance with the ADB’s Involuntary Resettlement Policy, which covers all households in the railways’ right-of-way.

Schedule 5 B. 6 further states that “The Borrower shall ensure that Works contractors are not issued a notice of possession of the pertinent section of railway until (i) the satisfactory completion of compensation payments and relocation to new sites for that particular section; (ii) the agreed rehabilitation assistance is in place; and (iii) the particular section is free from all encumbrances.”

You can read the loan agreement here.

Who is responsible for the situation facing the 27 households?

Clearly, by pumping mud into Boeung Kak lake, Shukaku Inc., with tacit consent from the government, is causing direct harm to the households.

Other actors, however, are also involved. The 27 households, and others already evicted from the area, are located on a strip of land where the safeguard policies of two international institutions apply. As a consequence of the railways rehabilitation project, the ADB Involuntary Resettlement Policy safeguards apply up to 20m on each side the tracks. Because the Boeung Kak area was excised from the Land Management and Administration Project’s (LMAP) systematic land titling project funded partly by the World Bank, the World Bank has further acknowledged its safeguards also apply (and have been breached) in the area.

It remains unclear where TRR’s responsibility lies. Evidently, the Australian-Cambodian joint venture is benefiting from Shukaku’s forced eviction of residents from areas now leased to the company. In addition to the 27 households that remain in Groups 8 and 9, possibly as many as 200 households are estimated to have previously lived in TRR’s concession area. Do TRR’s Australian stakeholders want the company to operate on land stained by human rights abuses?

TRR has not replied to requests to make the boundaries of its concession area public. There may be hundreds more households in areas leased to the company. What does TRR plan to do with these people? How will it ensure any relocation is conducted according to best practices?

To prove itself a transparent and accountable company with real corporate social responsibility, TRR should disclose the boundaries of its concession in Boeung Kak and other areas. The company should also outline how many households who will not be resettled by the railways rehabilitation project are residing within their concession, what they intend to do about these people, and how they are going to ensure that their rights will be respected.

As for the 27 households, there is no doubt about the fact that their rights are being violated and that they are entitled to compensation. Though deemed inadequate by many, the US$8500 compensation offered by Shukaku Inc. to other households in Village 1 may be the best compensation the 27 households can get. But how to get it?

– Yellow line: is a land boundary in which the Cambodia government agree to give to Toll (Cambodia) co.Ltd company for making railway business (15, 3042 ha) according to the concession agreement contract on 15 July 2009.
– Red line: is a land boundary in which Shukaku Inc. company has set up column into boundary of Phnom Penh railway Station and have to give back to Toll (Cambodia) Co.Ltd company for making railway business.
– Green Line: in a land boundary of Cambodia railway station in which registered in inventory.
– Blue spot: is the coordinate points which are measured according to the prime minister wrote.