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.

Press Release: Cambodian Railway Development Causes Human Rights Violations – AusAID complicit

Cambodian Railway Development Causes Human Rights Violations – AusAID complicit

Complaint submitted today to the Australian Human Rights Commission

(October 05, 2012)  Families resettled by Cambodia’s railway rehabilitation project filed a complaint today with the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) alleging that they have suffered serious violations of their human rights as a result of resettlement under the project, which is partly funded through a grant from AusAID.  The complaint, which was jointly submitted on behalf of 30 affected families by Equitable Cambodia (EC) and Inclusive Development International (IDI), claims that the Australian Government failed to uphold its international human rights obligations by providing significant funding to the railway project without taking sufficient measures to safeguard against breaches of human rights.

The Railway project, financed mainly by loans from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and grants from the Government of Australia, affects at least 4164 families who live alongside the dilapidated railway tracks. At least 1200 families are required to relocate in order to make way for the project.  A joint venture of the Australian firm Toll Holdings and the Cambodian firm Royal Group secured a 30-year concession to operate the refurbished railways.

“We repeatedly warned AusAID about the high risk of human rights violations since early 2010, but AusAID failed to take sufficient remedial and correction action to avoid abuses and mitigate harms that people have suffered,” said David Pred, Managing Associate of Inclusive Development International. “Australian aid has thus had the unintended but grave consequence of contributing to the impoverishment of some of Cambodia’s poorest families.”

The complaint focuses largely on breaches of the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, as children in particular are bearing the brunt of displacement.

The complaint quotes a mother of three who says that she no longer has enough money to feed her children three meals a day and send them to school, so two out of three have dropped out. One daughter now works at a factory and the other stays home and helps her cook and clean. She says that her children were not often sick before resettlement and are now “always sick” with headaches because they are hungry.

Eang Vuthy of Equitable Cambodia, which has been monitoring the impacts of the Railway resettlement process since 2010, confirmed that “children and especially girls are dropping out of school and in some cases have gotten work in factories to supplement the family income and help pay interest on debt.”

The complaint claims that health and safety failures of the resettlement process have had fatal consequences for children.  Most notoriously, in May 2010 two children drowned in a pond four days after their families were relocated to a Battambang resettlement site without any water supply.  The pond adjoining a nearby rice field was the main water source available to the families at the time.  In November 2011, two children were hit by a truck while they were walking back from school to the Poipet resettlement site. One child died and the other sustained serious injuries. No school was provided at the resettlement site as the families were promised, so children have been forced to walk 4 km and cross a busy road to get to their old school.

‘These human rights violations were highly foreseeable and could have been avoided,” said IDI Legal Associate Natalie Bugalski.  “When Australia decided to act outside of its borders by providing significant financing to the railway rehabilitation, AusAID became obliged to take measures to ensure, to the best of its ability, that the human rights of those to be affected would be respected.  While the Government of Cambodia bears the primary responsibility to ensure respect for the human rights of project-affected people, AusAID is also partly liable for the human rights violations suffered,” she added.

“Resettlement should be a chance for development for affected people,” stated Eang Vuthy. “They should be active participants in the project and it should make their lives better off.  They certainly shouldn’t drag people into poverty and exploitation. We need a win-win approach,” he explained.

The complainants have requested a number of remedies from AusAID, together with ADB and the Cambodian Government, including debt relief, compensation for their lost income and support to meet the basic needs of their children.

In addition to the direct reparations for breaches of human rights of affected persons, the complaint calls upon AusAID to adopt human rights safeguard policies and practices including a requirement to conduct human rights impact assessments for all projects to which it is considering providing support.

“We are calling on the Government to adopt a human rights based approach to international development,” said Rachel Ball of the Human Rights Law Centre, which assisted with the complaint. “Incorporating human rights into the development and delivery of aid programs is central to aid effectiveness and can prevent large scale violations such as those associated with the railways project,” she said.

BABC: Rehabilitation of the Cambodian Railway is Impoverishing Affected Families


Rehabilitation of the Cambodian Railway is Impoverishing Affected Families

February 13, 2012

A problematic aid project in Cambodia has violated the rights of affected people and left many families mired in debt and deeper poverty, Bridges Across Borders Cambodia (BABC) said in a report released Monday.

The report, DERAILED, reviews the resettlement process and impacts of the Rehabilitation of the Cambodian Railway Project, which aims to restore the country’s 650 kilometres of railway infrastructure.

The project, financed mainly by development assistance from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Government of Australia, stands to affect around 4164 families who live alongside the dilapidated railway tracks. At least 1200 families are required to relocate in order to make way for the project. A joint venture of the Australian firm Toll Holdings and the Cambodian firm Royal Group secured a 30-year concession to operate the refurbished railways.

BABC has closely monitored the resettlement process since early 2010 and interviewed more than 200 affected households to ascertain the extent to which the Railway Rehabilitation Project has complied with the ADB safeguard policy and international law obligations.

“Our principal finding is that the resettlement process for this project has fallen well short of ADB’s policy requirements and basic human rights obligations,” said BABC Executive Director David Pred.

“These requirements are critical to ensuring that the rights of people who are displaced by development projects are upheld throughout the resettlement process and that their lives are not made worse off as a result,” he added.

The report found that meaningful consultation with affected households on resettlement options and information disclosure on compensation entitlements was precluded by an atmosphere of intimidation and coercion. The result is that many families have been forced to accept very low compensation, which has led to deterioration in their living conditions.

Some families have been left unable to reconstruct adequate housing that meets minimum standards under international law, which amounts to a serious violation of human rights.

None of the five Project-sponsored resettlement sites were fully prepared with basic services and facilities when resettlement commenced, causing considerable hardship to resettled families. Lack of access to safe, sufficient and affordable water has been a particular concern.

Resettlement sites are located far away from people’s original homes and places of business, with minimal opportunities to generate new income. Despite the known risk of income reduction or joblessness upon resettlement, effective income restoration programs have not been implemented many months after resettlement.

The cumulative effect of inadequate compensation, increased expenses and reduced incomes on households has led the majority of the resettled families that BABC interviewed into unmanageable debt to private moneylenders, a common trigger for a downward spiral into destitution.

“It is unacceptable for the poorest citizens to be asked to pay the price of economic development, but it is scandalous that these costs should be borne by the poor for a project financed largely by international development agencies whose missions are to alleviate poverty,” said David Pred.

“Cambodian people appreciate international development assistance, but we want to see this aid prioritizing the poorest and most vulnerable people in society,” said BABC Program Manager Eang Vuthy.

“However, we have observed through our work with communities affected by the Railways project that their living conditions have gotten worse and worse since they have been resettled,” he added.

The risks of resettlement are well-known, but they can be prevented through smart planning backed up by sufficient resources and the implementation of safeguard policies, which are designed to protect people from the precise harms they are experiencing as a result of this project. When resettlement cannot be avoided for infrastructure projects such as this, it should be turned into a development opportunity for affected people.

“Far from shouldering the costs of the project, the families who are forced to give up their land, homes and communities should be entitled to share the benefits of the project so that their lives may be improved,” said David Pred.

“The ADB and AusAID must take urgent appropriate action, together with the Royal Government of Cambodia, to remedy the situation and bring this project into compliance with international law and ADB policies. Toll Holdings and Royal Group should also contribute a share of the revenues from freight operations to programs that directly benefit the affected people,” he said.

“We would like to see the private companies benefiting from this public investment give something back to the people who have given up so much to make this project possible,” said Eang Vuthy.

“That is not just corporate social responsibility, it is common decency,” he added.


Additional Information

The report is available at the following link: http://www.babcambodia.org/derailed
An accompanying video is also available at: http://www.babcambodia.org/railways

Hard copies of the report are available at BABC’s offices in Phnom Penh, located at: #55 Street 101, Boeung Trabek, Phnom Penh, CambodiaThe report will also be presented at the event “Aid and Accountability: Safeguarding Rights in High-Risk Development Projects” at Monash University Law Chambers, 555 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne, Australia at 12:30pm on February 13th.

For more information, please contact:

David Pred, Executive Director
Email: david@babcambodia.org
Tel. in Australia: (+61) 487443807

Eang Vuthy, Development Watch Program Manager
Email: vuthy@babcambodia.org
Tel. in Australia: (+61) 418146603


Bridges Across Borders Cambodia is an international non-governmental organization working to support people’s action for social justice, inclusive development and human rights in Cambodia.