Where are the railways monitoring reports?

No new social monitoring reports on the railways rehabilitation project have been published since November 2012, raising concerns about the lack of external monitoring of the project as well as public access to information regarding the project. Redecam, the supposedly independent project monitor hired by the government, is meant to submit quarterly reports featuring details of the social impacts of the the ADB and AusAID-financed project. These are subsequently uploaded to the ADB website for public access. Yet the latest publicly available report, #19, covers the time period Aug-Nov 2012, and no reports have been public since. While the quality of Redecam’s reports has generally been poor, the lack of reports entirely underlines the ongoing lack of transparency and accountability that has plagued the railways project from the get-go.


Media Statement: Resettled to Poverty

Sahmakum Teang Tnaut

Media Statement

Jun. 4, 2013


End of the Line, a new report by Sahmakum Teang Tnaut (STT), reveals Phnom Penh Households relocated as part of the ADB- and AusAID-funded railways rehabilitation project have been harmed. Using resettlement expert Michael Cernea’s theoretical framework, the report shows how Project partners failed to mitigate well-established risks associated with resettlement, to the detriment of the living standards of the people affected.  

Since September 2011, at least 143 Households have been relocated from along Phnom Penh’s railway tracks to Trapeang Anhchanh relocation site to make way for the rehabilitation of Cambodia’s railways. As part of their relocation package, each Household was provided a plot at the peri-urban site, as well as an individual amount of monetary compensation based on the Household’s previous structure along the railway tracks and its socio-economic profile.

STT’s new report – End of the Line – presents to date the most comprehensive assessment of socio-economic outcomes of resettlement under the Project. The original aim of the research was to survey relocated Households against Households remaining along the railway tracks, using Michael Cernea’s Impoverishment Risks and Reconstruction Model, which outlines eight key risks associated with resettlement: landlessness, joblessness, homelessness, marginalisation, increased morbidity, food insecurity, loss of access to community resources, and social disarticulation. However, it was soon discovered that a large amount of Households relocated to Trapeang Anhchanh were not living on the Project-sponsored site on a regular basis, and so a third group was added to the research.

Data presented in the report plainly shows that in the short run, Households relocated as part of the Project have been harmed. The group of 68 relocated Households residing in Trapeang Anhchanh resettlement site for at least four nights per week appears to have suffered resettlement-related harms in almost every category of risks identified in Cernea’s model. The 28 relocated Households whose coping strategy predominantly includes renting properties close to their previous homes, seem to have fared marginally better, ostensibly on account of opting not to live at the Project-sponsored site. By comparison, the living standards of the 91 Households still living along the railway tracks saw no marked change between 2011 and 2012.

“Our latest research shows that on each of eight well-known risks associated with resettlement, the Project failed to take the necessary mitigative actions, to the detriment of resettlement outcomes,” said Ee Sarom, Programmes Coordinator. “There is no question about it, Households affected by the railways rehabilitation in Phnom Penh have become impoverished and marginalised as a result.”

“Failed resettlement under the Project is particularly disappointing given that it was entirely predictable,” said Nora Lindstrom, Programme Development Manager and co-author of the report. “STT has been monitoring the railways rehabilitation project since before Phnom Penh Households were relocated; in our 2011 report Rehabilitation of Cambodia’s railways: Comparison of field data we highlighted widespread problems in compensation rates and recommended suspension of resettlement activities pending a review of resettlement plans and processes. Unfortunately, this was not taken on board.”

The findings of the report highlight a prominent need for prompt corrective action to be taken by the Royal Government of Cambodia together with the Asian Development Bank and AusAID. Specific recommendations are made to this effect, the most prominent of which include debt relief and development of income-generating opportunities, as part of a comprehensive corrective action plan developed together with the Affected Households.

“The ADB’s Involuntary Resettlement Policy demands that the living standards of Households affected by the Project are brought back to pre-relocation levels,” said Sok Lida, Research Project Manager and lead researcher. “We know that the institutions involved in the Project have to date taken some measures to address the situation at Trapeang Anhchanh, but a comprehensive action plan to address the resettlement failure is lacking.”

As the Project’s partners prepare to relocate a further 105 Households in Phnom Penh, the report also outlines valuable lessons to be learnt to improve future resettlement outcomes. Disclosure of resettlement plans and meaningful consultation on these ahead of any relocation would significantly help to prevent the kind of resettlement failures the Project has to date suffered from by strengthening transparency, information disclosure, and dialogue. In addition, participatory development of income restoration programmes and their commencement prior to relocation would allow Affected Households a greater sense of ownership of the situation, thus also contributing to better outcomes.

“We sincerely hope the Project’s implementers and funders will take our recommendations on board,” said Ee Sarom. “The report outlines valuable lessons to be learnt for future resettlement under the Railways Rehabilitation Project, but also provides concrete recommendations for improving resettlement outcomes in Cambodia more generally.”


Media Contacts:


Ee Sarom, Programmes Coordinator, +855 12 836 533, sarom@teangtnaut.org

Nora Lindstrom, Programme Development Manager, +855 15 552 805, nora@teangtnaut.org

Sok Lida, Research Project Manager, +855 12 544 230, da@teangtnaut.org

Funded by AusAID, CUFA enters the Spin Game

Credit Union Foundation Australia (CUFA) has posted an article on their website extolling how households evicted from the railways are pleased with their new legal shelters. CUFA recently signed an agreement with AusAID for an unspecified amount to provide financial literacy training to households relocated as part of the ADB and AusAID funded railways rehabilitation project. The logic seems to be that affected households are in debt not because low compensation rates and badly planned relocation, but because they don’t know how to manage their finances. You can read CUFA’s article here.

ADB: Holding Statement: Cambodia Railway Rehabilitation Project – Complaint Filed to Australian Human Rights Commission

The ADB has announced it is carefully reviewing recommendations set forth in a complaint filed with the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) about the Cambodia Railway Rehabilitation Project and is committed to working closely with the Government of Cambodia and the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) to address outstanding issues. The Bank claims some of the concerns raised in the complaint are being already addressed through its Accountability Mechanism, and that ADB is fully committed to ensuring full compliance with its safeguards. For more, click here.

Sydney Morning Herald: Planning failures derail aid project

Philip Heijmans and Tom Hyland, Jun. 17, 2012, Sydney Morning Herald

AN AUSTRALIAN-funded rail project in Cambodia has been marred by poor construction, botched surveys leading to the evictions of families, infighting between contractors, delays and cost overruns, a leaked official report shows.
It also reveals that workers on the project endure unsafe working conditions without proper accommodation, clean water or hygienic toilets.

The disruption is exposed in a report by the international consortium funding the $143 million project – Australia’s international aid agency AusAID and the Asian Development Bank.

Australia has pledged $26 million to the project, which is already at the centre of controversy over the resettlement of thousands of people forced to move by construction work.

Frustrated by delays, the Australian company Toll Holdings, part of a joint venture that was to operate the railway when construction was complete, suspended its role in March.

The project involves rehabilitating or building 641 kilometres of track, with the aim of integrating Cambodia with a regional network including Vietnam and Thailand.

It has come under fire from Cambodian human rights groups after disrupting more than 4000 families living along the tracks, of whom 1050 had to move home.

The report, prepared by AusAID and ADB experts in April and May, found existing problems were far from resolved, and also exposed new issues.

It reveals that botched survey methods on part of the line misjudged where construction would take place.
The mistake, discovered only in April, means more people might have to move.

”In order to physically build the railway, more households may be affected and additional resettlement may be required,” it says. ”This is a major issue for all stakeholders and must be resolved as a matter of urgency.”
The report reveals defects and ”poor construction methodology” on parts of the line and criticises foreign consultants for a ”lack of control and poor supervision” early in the work. Construction is being carried out by France’s TSO (Cambodia) Co Ltd and engineering by Japan’s Nippon Koei Co. The French company declined to comment, while the Japanese company could not be contacted.

The report says the relationship between the two companies has become ”strained” and it calls on them ”to develop a more amicable and mutually respectful mode of co-operation”. It urges Cambodia’s railways department to take a more active role in promoting ”a non-adversarial environment focused on completing the works” and managing the project – tasks the department is reluctant to take up.

The report says railway officials relied on consultants to do routine management, even though they were meant to take over day-to-day operations after Toll pulled out.

Toll has a 30-year concession to operate the network in a joint venture called Toll Royal Railways, with a conglomerate owned by Australian-Cambodian tycoon Kith Meng.

Toll has made no public statement on its withdrawal from the project.

”I am not in a position to comment at all,” said Andrew Ethell, Toll’s general manager for corporate affairs.
But in a leaked letter dated March 16, Toll Royal Railways informed the Cambodian government it would suspend operations until next year because delays meant the project was not profitable.

Work on the southern part of the line was due to be finished by May last year, but it is now 335 days behind schedule and will not be complete until October this year, although heavy rain could push this back until 2013.

Work on the northern part was due to be complete by the end of this month. The report says it is ”possible” the work will be done by September next year.

On labour conditions, the report says, despite improvements, workers’ camps in the south were ”mostly garbage-strewn and water supply in some camps [was] not regularly replenished”. Camps in the north ”lacked basic provisions (proper accommodation facilities, safe water supply, hygienic toilets, etc)”.

Last month the Australian embassy in Phnom Penh said it was aware of poor working conditions and inappropriate surveying methods and had asked the project’s partners to investigate. Consultants on the project and the ADB have admitted to the Cambodian press that the project is running out of funding and requires between $50 million and $100 million to complete, a shortfall the ADB has refused to pay.

An AusAID spokeswoman said problems revealed by the report were not uncommon for such complex projects. Despite this, she said it was making good progress and was on track for completion by 2015.

The report highlighted a lack of accountability in Australia’s overseas aid program, said Gareth Bryant, a campaigner with the AID/WATCH activist group.

■ Australia is spending $26m to help rebuild Cambodia’s rail system
■ All up, the project will cost $143m
■ It involves rehabilitating 641 km of track
■ Proponents say it will help lift Cambodia out of poverty
■ About 4000 families, many living in shanty towns, have been affected
■ About 1050 families have had to move

Rail looks for new funding

Don Weinland, Phnom penh Post ,May.23 2012


A Toll Royal employee climbs aboard a train at Phnom Penh Railway Station in 2010.

It’s a nearly 300-kilometre stretch of rail in disrepair. More than 60 bridges – some crumbling, some dotted with landmines at the base – lie on the line between the towns of Bat Deong, northwest of Phnom Penh, and Sisophan near the Thai border.

It’s also where about US$118 million in grants and concessional loans from the Asian Development BankAusAid and other donors came up short in the effort to rehabilitate the country’s railways.

“More reserves should have originally been put in place,” Peter Broch, senior transportation economist at ADB in Cambodia, said yesterday, adding that the tracks were in a poorer state than originally thought when assessments were conducted five years ago.

The shortfall, and the reportedly slow pace of progress on the line, led to the suspension on March 31 of Toll Royal Group’s operations.

The company, which has a 30-year concession for operations, has yet to issue a formal statement announcing the suspension, but a majority of the company’s staff have left the job.

Sources of funding for the remaining track are unclear, but an official at ADB yesterday said the line that would connect Thailand to Cambodia’s only deepwater port would be complete in 2015.

The search for the remaining money, which experts yesterday said could not be assessed at present, was now in the hands of the government.

“This is with the expectation that the government would be able to mobilise some sources of funding,” ADB Cambodia country director Putu Kamayana said yesterday.

“I understand that there are public and private sources looking into it.”

There’s an equal amount of speculation on Toll’s concession, which is in partnership with domestically owned Royal Group of Companies.

While ADB expects Toll to operate the 256-kilometre southern line when completed at the end of this year, Putu Kamayana also said that “we’ve heard the rumour that there are others waiting in the wings”.

No firms have stepped forward as the successor to Toll.

Touch Chankosal, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Transportation and Public Works, declined to comment yesterday on other possible companies interested in the Toll concession.

Council of Ministers spokesman Ek Tha yesterday also declined to comment on developments regarding Cambodia’s railways.

In early May, Pierre Chartier, a transportation specialist at the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia, told the Post that a slowdown on Cambodia’s railways could lead to slower regional progress on both the Vietnamese and Thai sides of the track.

A functioning railroad in Cambodia would save $1 billion in road and sea transportation costs during the first 30 years of operation, according to an ADB estimate.

PP Post: Toll Group alleged to be leaving rail project

By Tom Brennan, Mar. 14 2012, Phnom Penh Post

Australian logistics company Toll Group is allegedly pulling out of its 30-year concession to operate the Kingdom’s national railway, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

Citing “reliable sources”, an SMH report said Toll would leave its US$145 million Toll Royal Railway joint venture with Cambodia’s Royal Group of Companies. No reason was given for the decision, and a Toll Group spokesman declined to comment for the article.

The Post last month contacted a number of the partners involved in the project amid speculation that Toll Group was frustrated with the pace of the rail’s redevelopment and had decided to leave Cambodia. Officials denied any such claims.

Royal Group’s Kith Meng rejected the allegations when reached by phone in late February, and he declined to comment when asked again yesterday about the project.

Toll Royal CEO David Kerr last month also denied the claims. “Definitely not true. Toll pulling out has not been discussed.”

A Cambodian government spokesman in February said he had no knowledge of Toll’s alleged plans to pull out, and reiterated those claims yesterday.

A Toll spokesman in Melbourne repeatedly denied having knowledge of the matter, although a separate official based in Singapore said the company was working on a statement in conjunction with the Cambodian government as to the status of the project.

Toll Royal officials yesterday again declined to comment, saying a statement from the parent company was expected later this week or next week.

SMH: Toll to quit Cambodia rail plans

By Lindsay Murdoch, Mar. 14 2012, Sydney Morning Herald

AUSTRALIAN company Toll Group is set to pull out of a controversial $145 million project to rebuild Cambodia’s railways, reliable sources in Cambodia say.

Under an agreement signed in 2009, Toll and a Cambodian joint venture partner were to operate the railways for 30 years. The project, partly funded by the Australian aid agency AusAid, has been at the centre of claims that up to 4000 people living along the tracks are not being fully compensated for having to move. A Toll spokesman declined to comment.

The rebuilding of two decrepit rail lines linking the capital, Phnom Penh, with a southern port and with the Thai border in the west is strategically important. They were seen as part of a planned inter-country rail network linking Singapore and China through Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam.

The Toll Group had a 30-year contract in a joint venture with well-connected Cambodian businessman Kith Meng through his Royal Group of companies.

In November last year, Fairfax Media reported that a 13-year-old girl and her nine year-old brother drowned in a deep pool four days after their family was uprooted from their home and moved to a resettlement site so work could begin on the railway.

PP Post: Ex-rail workers fear pay has left station

Sen David, Phnom Penh Post, Nov. 17 2011

Representatives of 503 former railway workers protested outside the Ministry of Transportation in Phnom Penh yesterday, demanding the government pay them outstanding salaries ranging from US$2,500 to $5,000 per person.

Railway workers from Battambang, Kampot, Pursat and Takeo who were formerly employed by the government, but were dismissed in April this year when a private company took over the project, claimed they had not received promised government salary stipends since being removed from their posts.

Prom Sokha Tevy, one of nearly 100 representatives gathered yesterday, said former workers were demanding a meeting with the ministry and payment of their “project conclusion entitlements”.

A project conclusion entitlement is a portion of salary collected at each pay, then delivered as a salary stipend on the conclusion of a project.

But the workers formerly employed by the state and dismissed during the private company’s takeover have not received any of this salary stipend, despite the Ministry of Transportation sending a recommendation report to the Ministry of Economics in October saying the workers should be paid.

Koe Chan Vesna, a former railway worker official from Kampot who had worked on the railway there since 1981, said this was the fourth time workers had protested to demand the stipend be paid.

“We stopped work because the railways were taken over by a private company that wanted less staff to save money. We agreed to stop if we were paid our accumulated salary stipend,” Koe Chan Vesna said.

“Right now, our income is so little that we need that money to support ourselves.”

Another former railway worker, Sok Vanna from Phnom Penh, said workers were also demanding an extra $5 a month for each month the salary stipend was not paid.

“We demand the extra money to pressure Prime Minister Hun Sen to help us, but so far we have received nothing,” she said.

“We have worked for the state for such a long time on the railways – for me, since 1979.”