STT releases “Losing the Plot” – a new report on household debt in railways relocation sites

Media Statement
Jun. 19, 2012

Local urban NGO Sahmakum Teang Tnaut (STT) has released a new report entitled Losing the Plot: Rapid Assessment of Household Debt in Trapeang Anhchanh. Based on interviews with 12 households relocated to Trapeang Anhchanh site as part of the ADB and AusAID-funded railways rehabilitation, the report sheds light on one of the most tragic outcomes of what has been presented as an aid project: the unmanageable debts taken on by relocated households.

Envisioned as a prelude to a more comprehensive study on the situation in Trapeang Anchanh, the rapid assessment shows how the railways project continues to be in violation of the ADB’s Involuntary Resettlement Policy, as well as AusAID’s guidelines on resettlement – relocated households are not at the same, or a better, living standard compared to pre-project levels.

Instead, the report shows how the combined effects of inadequate compensation, a dearth of practical advice, reduced incomes resulting from lack of income-generating opportunities, and unsustainable and spiraling levels of debt mean that just eight months after resettlement, households in Trapeang Anhchanh are severely overdue with their interest repayments. Having used their plots as collateral for the loans, several households are on the verge of losing their homes and their land.

The report also shows that the incomes of households living in Trapeang Anhchanh have fallen under the national poverty line, and that many appear in need of humanitarian assistance to survive.

“It is simply unacceptable that a so-called ‘aid project’ is pushing people into poverty and landlessness,” said Nora Lindstrom, Programme Development Manager at STT. “We have highlighted issues surrounding resettlement to the ADB and AusAID for well over two years, including warning them against relocating people to Trapeang Anhchanh, but it appears our – as well as the communities’ – advice and pleas have fallen on deaf ears.”

“As a matter of urgency, we call on the Cambodian government as well as the ADB and AusAID to take measures to ensure no household relocated under the project loses their plot due to debt ,” said Ee Sarom, Programmes Coordinator at STT. “The project parties should also provide debt relief, in the form of repayment of loans, to affected families.”

According to the ADB, the ongoing rehabilitation of the railway in Cambodia involves the resettlement of approximately 1,050 households from their homes along Cambodia’s railway tracks to designated resettlement sites. At least 161 households must be relocated in Phnom Penh. Implemented by the Royal Government of Cambodia, the project is primarily funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID).

Households affected by the project are entitled to compensation in accordance with the Project’s Resettlement Plans, which must be in compliance with ADB’s Safeguard Policies. The first paragraph of the ADB’s Policy on Involuntary Resettlement (1995) outlines its guiding principle:

“People who may be adversely affected by the development intervention should be consulted; compensated for their losses; and assisted to rebuild their homes and communities, reestablish their enterprises, and develop their potentials as productive members of society at a level generally at least equivalent to that which was likely to have prevailed in the absence of the development intervention. Attention to such matters is especially important when the people who may be adversely affected are poor and vulnerable.”
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You can access the report here: Losing the Plot

Media inquiries:
Nora Lindstrom, Programme Development Manager, Sahmakum Teang Tnaut, 015 552 805, nora@teangtnaut.org (English only)