Resettlement report ‘cover-up’

Shane Worrell and Khouth Sophak Chakrya, Phnom Penh Post. Mar. 19 2013

adb railway rehabilitation project

A boy is given a bath at the Trapaing Anchang relocation site for families that were evicted from their Phnom Penh homes to make way for the Kingdom’s railway rehabilitation project, funded by the ADB. Photograph: Pha Lina/Phnom Penh Post

The Asian Development Bank has been accused of covering up a report that civil society groups say is highly critical of the process of resettling about 1,200 families as part of the national Railway Rehabilitation Project.

The ADB first refused to disclose the report, which it commissioned itself, before its own Public Disclosure Advisory Committee later deemed it would be harmful to release, according to NGOs Equitable Cambodia, Sahmakum Teang Tnaut (STT) and Inclusive Development International.

“Informed sources say that the report is highly critical of the resettlement process and the impacts on affected families, who have been left worse off as a result,” a statement says.

The report was written by Michael Cernea, a resettlement specialist.

About 1,200 families have or will be relocated by the $143 million railway rehabilitation project, which has involved the ADB, the government, Royal Group and Australian company Toll Holdings.

According to multiple reports in the past year, families relocated to sites such as Trapaing Anchang in the capital’s Por Sen Chey district have fallen into debt, because their compensation was less than half the price of building a new house.

Ros Bopha, representative of Trapaing Anchang community, to which about 160 families were relocated in 2011, said yesterday that families now had clean water, electricity and roads.

“But families remain in debt . . . and are being threatened by creditors,” she said.

An ADB representative, who did want her name published, said the report could not be released because it contained references to internal information about the bank. “However, ADB has determined that the public interest in disclosing the recommendations outweighs any harm that may be caused by such disclosure,” she said.

Those recommendations in­cluded eliminating the resettled families’ risk of losing their plots, improving their income and job opportunities, and improving monitoring.

An Australian Embassy spokes­man, whose country is a monitor and donor of the project, said its aid arm, AusAid, had pledged $2 million to affected families since 2011 and supported the recommendations.