Residents ‘concerned’ following NGO’s suspension

Cheang Sokha and Vincent MacIsaac, Phnom Penh Post, Sep. 1 2011

Residents of two communes in Phnom Penh affected by railway rehabilitation have asked the Asian Development Bank and AUSAid, which are funding the project, to lobby the government to end its suspension of the non-government organisation that had been helping them negotiate compensation and resettlement, according to documents obtained by the Post yesterday.

“We became very concerned and afraid when we heard the announcement from the Ministry of Interior to temporarily suspend Sahmakum Teang Tnout Association,” a letter to the ADB and AUSAid said.
The August 14 letter, signed by a representative of affected households of Russei Keo district’s Tuol Sangke and Russei Keo communes, described the suspension as “groundless”.

It said the communities “fully support all NGOs working in the interest of the people affected by the railroad rehab-ilitation project”.

In its August 18 reply, ADB’s country director, Puta Kamayana, said officials from both the ADB and AUSAid had met with STT staff to discuss the organisation’s suspension.

“Please be informed that both organisations have met with STT, and ADB has met with senior officials of the government on this issue,” the letter reads.

Kamayana also expresses complete support for STT on behalf of the ADB and AUSAid.

“We fully agree that Sahmakum Teang Tnout (STT) has provided the railway project important information about the resettlement process which has helped address the needs of affected households,” he wrote.

STT was suspended by the Ministry of the Interior at the beginning of last month.

The government has given several explanations for the suspension, including a failure to notify it of chan-ges to its board and inciting villagers to protest against the rail project.