ការបិទបាំងការពិតស្តីពីការតាំងទីលំនៅថ្មីនៃគម្រោងផ្លូវរថភ្លើង

ការបិទបាំងការពិតស្តីពីការតាំងទីលំនៅថ្មីនៃគម្រោងផ្លូវរថភ្លើង

ធនាគារអភិវឌ្ឍន៍អាស៊ីបដិសេធមិនផ្សព្វផ្សាយរបាយការណ៍តិទៀនរបស់អ្នកជំនាញ

សេចក្តីថ្លែងការណ៍សារព័ត៌មាន

ថ្ងៃទី១៨ ខែមីនា ឆ្នាំ២០១៣

រាជធានីភ្នំពេញ

អង្គការ សមធម៌កម្ពុជា សមាគម ធាងត្នោត និង អង្គការ Inclusive Development International (IDI) ពិតជាមានការសោកស្តាយយ៉ាងខ្លាំងចំពោះធនាគារអភិរឌ្ឍន៍អាស៊ី ដែលការបដិសេធមិនចេញផ្សាយ របាយការណ៍តិទៀនរបស់អ្នកជំនាញការឯករាជ្យ ស្តីពីផលប៉ះពាល់នៃការតាំងលំនៅថ្មី ដែលជាផ្នែកមួយនៃ គម្រោងស្តារផ្លូវរថភ្លើងនៃមហាអនុតំបន់ទន្លេមេគង្គនៅក្នុងប្រទេសកម្ពុជា។

ធនាគារអភិរឌ្ឍន៍អាស៊ី បានច្រានចោលនូវការចេញផ្សាយនៃរបាយការណ៍ឃ្លាំមើលឯករាជ្យមួយ របស់អ្នកជំនាញឯកទេសខាងការតាំងទីលំនៅថ្មីដ៏ល្បីល្បាញពាសពេញពិភពលោក បណ្ឌិត ម៉ៃខល ស៊ឺនារ (Michael Cernea) ដែលពាក់ព័ន្ធនឹងភាពប្រទាំងប្រទិសនៃគម្រោងនៅប្រទេសកម្ពុជា ស្តីពីគម្រោងស្តារផ្លូវ រថភ្លើង។ គម្រោងនេះ ប៉ះពាល់ដល់ប្រជាពលរដ្ឋប្រមាណជា ៤១៦៤គ្រួសារ ដែលរស់នៅតាមបណ្តោយផ្លូវ រថភ្លើង ហើយប្រជាពលរដ្ឋទាំងនេះ ត្រូវបានតម្រូវឲ្យចាក់ចេញប្រហែលជា ១២០០គ្រួសារ។ ក្រុមហ៊ុន អូស្រ្តាលី Toll Holdings និងក្រុមហ៊ុនកម្ពុជា រ៉ូយ៉ាល់ក្រុប ទទួលបានសម្បទាន ៣០ឆ្នាំ ក្នុងកាសាងសង់ផ្លូវ រថភ្លើងថ្មីនេះ។

របាយការណ៍ ស្តីពី ការឃ្លាំមើលការតាំងទីលំនៅថ្មីរបស់ប្រជាពលរដ្ឋនៃគម្រោងស្តារផ្លូវរថភ្លើង នៃ មហាអនុតំបន់ទន្លេមេគង្គនៅកម្ពុជា : ពាក់ព័ន្ធនឹងបច្ចុប្បន្នភាពនៃស្ថានភាព ភាពខ្លាំង ភាពខ្សោយ និង អនុសាសន៍ ដែលត្រូវបានប្រគល់ជូនទៅធនាគារអភិរឌ្ឍន៍អាស៊ីដោយបណ្ឌិត ម៉ៃខល ស៊ឺនារ (Michael Cernea) នៅពាក់កណ្តាលឆ្នាំ២០១២ ក្នុងគោលដៅឆ្លើយតបទៅនឹងបញ្ហាកំពុងកើតមានដែលនាំឲ្យរាំងស្ទះដល់ គម្រោងស្តារផ្លូវរថភ្លើង។ ប្រភពព័ត៌មានមួយចំនួន បានឲ្យដឹងថា របាយការណ៍នោះបានតិទៀនយ៉ាងខ្លាំង ចំពោះដំណើរការតាំងទីលំនៅថ្មី និងផលប៉ះពាល់ទៅលើក្រុមគ្រួសារដែលបានចាកចេញ ដោយទទួលបាន លទ្ធផលដ៏លំបាកវេទនា។

ធនាគារអភិរឌ្ឍន៍អាស៊ីបានបដិសេធសំណើសុំឲ្យចេញផ្សាយនូវរបាយការណ៍នេះ។ បន្ទាប់ពីសំណើសុំ បានដាក់ទៅកាន់គណ:កម្មាការណែនាំឲ្យផ្សព្វផ្សាយជាសាធារណ: (Public Disclosure Advisory Committee) ធនាគារអភិរឌ្ឍន៍អាស៊ីបានព្រមព្រៀងក្នុងការចេញផ្សាយនូវអនុសាសន៍នៃរបាយការណ៍នោះ ប៉ុន្តែបដិសេធមិន បញ្ចេញរបាយការណ៍ទាំងមូល។ គណៈកម្មាការបានលើកឡើងថា “ផលប៉ះដែលអាចកើតមានពីការផ្សព្វ ផ្សាយរបាយការណ៍ គឺអាចជាផលប្រយោជន៍សាធារណ: ដោយនិរន្តរន៍ និងភ្លាមៗ។ យោងតាមគោល នយោបាយរបស់ធនាគារអភិរឌ្ឍន៍អាស៊ី ពាក់ព័ន្ធនឹងទំនាក់ទំនងសាធារណៈ សេចក្តីសម្រេចរបស់ គណ: កម្មាការណែនាំឲ្យផ្សព្វផ្សាយជាសាធារណ: (Public Disclosure Advisory Committee) គឺជាការសម្រេចចិត្តចុង ក្រោយ និងបិទផ្លូវប្តឹងតវ៉ា។

លោក អៀង វុទ្ធី ដែលជាតំណាងអង្គការសមធម៌កម្ពុជា បានមានប្រសាសន៍ថា “តើផលប៉ះពាល់នេះ ទៅដល់អ្នកណា? ខ្ញុំឆ្ងល់ណាស់ ថាតើអ្វីដែលពួកគេកំពុងលាក់លៀម ដែលអាចនាំឲ្យមានផលប៉ះពាល់ខ្លាំង នោះ? វាហាក់ដូចជាថា ធនាគារអភិរឌ្ឍន៍អាស៊ីកំពុងចាត់ទុកផលប្រយោជន៍ផ្ទាល់ខ្លួនធំជាងផលប្រយោជន៍ សាធារណៈ និងផលប្រយោជន៍ប្រជាពលរដ្ឋ ដែលកំពុងទទួលរងផលប៉ះពាល់ពីគម្រោងផ្លូវរថភ្លើង”។

លោក អ៊ី សារុំ ដែលជាអ្នកសម្របសម្រួលកម្មវិធីរបស់សមាគមធាងត្នោត បានឲ្យដឹងថា “ការសិក្សា ស្រាវជ្រាវដែលនឹងចេញផ្សាយនាពេលអនាគតដ៏ខ្លីខាងមុខ ស្តីពីផលប៉ះពាល់តាំងទីលំនៅថ្មីនៃគម្រោងស្តារផ្លូវ រថភ្លើង បានប្រព្រឹត្តទៅ ដោយយកគំរូតាមអនុសាសន៍របស់បណ្ឌិត ស៊ឺនារ ដែលបានបង្ហាញយ៉ាងច្បាស់ថា ប្រជាពលរដ្ឋរងផលប៉ះពាល់នៃគម្រោង គឺកំពុងរងទុក្ខ។ ការមិនផ្សព្វផ្សាយរបាយការណ៍របស់បណ្ឌិត ម៉ៃខល ស៊ឺនារ (Michael Cernea) ធនាគារអភិរឌ្ឍន៍អាស៊ីកំពុងតែព្យាយាមលាក់បាំងការពិត”។

ប្រជាពលរដ្ឋរងផលប៉ះពាល់ពីគម្រោងស្តារផ្លូវរថភ្លើង ក៏បានលើកឡើងនូវភាពអាក់អន់ចិត្តចំពោះ ធនាគារអភិវឌ្ឍន៍អាស៊ី ដែលមិនបានផ្សព្វផ្សាយរបាយការណ៍នេះ។

លោក ស៊ឹម ពៅ ដែលជាតំណាងសហគមន៍ទួលសង្កែ “A” បានមានប្រសាសន៍ថា “ខ្ញុំជឿជាក់ថា របាយការណ៍របស់លោកបណ្ឌិត ស៊ឺនារ គឺមានប្រយោជន៍ជាវិជ្ជមានដល់ប្រជាពលរដ្ឋ ដែលជាហេតុធ្វើឲ្យ ធនាគារអភិរឌ្ឍន៍អាស៊ី បដិសេធមិនចេញផ្សាយ ដោយសារពួកគេបារម្ភពីការបាត់បង់ផលប្រយោជន៍របស់ខ្លួន ។ ខ្ញុំចង់ឲ្យធនាគារអភិរឌ្ឍន៍អាស៊ីចេញផ្សាយរបាយការណ៍នេះ ហើយខ្ញុំចង់ឲ្យពួកគេបកប្រែវាទៅជាភាសាខ្មែរ ដូច្នេះ ពួកយើងអាចប្រៀបធៀបរបាយការណ៍នោះទៅនឹងគោលនយោបាយរបស់ធនាគារអភិរឌ្ឍន៍អាស៊ី ដែល កំណត់ថា ប្រជាពលរដ្ឋមិនគប្បីលំបាកជាងមុនដោយសារតែគម្រោងផ្លូវរថភ្លើងឡើយ។ ខ្ញុំចង់ឃើញធនាគារ អភិរឌ្ឍន៍អាស៊ី អនុលោមទៅតាមរបាយការណ៍របស់បណ្ឌិត ស៊ឺនារ”។

លោក ឃួន ព្រំសារិទ្ធ ដែលជាតំណាងសហគមន៍ត្រពាំងអញ្ចាញនៅរាជធានីភ្នំពេញ បានមាន ប្រសាសន៍ថា “ខ្ញុំពិតជាមានការសោកស្តាយណាស់ ដែលរបាយការណ៍របស់លោក ម៉ៃខល ស៊ឺនារ (Michael Cernea) មិនត្រូវបានចេញផ្សាយ។ ជីវភាពរស់នៅរបស់ពួកយើងនៅទីតាំងថ្មី គឺមានស្ថានភាព លំបាកខ្លាំងណាស់ ខ្វះនូវហេដ្ឋារចនាសម្ព័ន្ធមូលដ្ឋាន ទីលំនៅសមរម្យ មានការងារធ្វើ និងមានសាលារៀន សម្រាប់កូនៗរបស់ពួកយើង។ កត្តាទាំងនេះ បានធ្វើឲ្យពួកយើងជំពាក់បំណុលគេយ៉ាងធ្ងន់ធ្ងរ និងប្រឈមទៅ នឹងការបាត់បង់ដី។ ពួកយើងដឹងថា របាយការណ៍របស់លោក ម៉ៃខល ស៊ឺនារ (Michael Cernea) គឺបាន ឆ្លុះបញ្ចាំងពីស្ថានភាពជាក់ស្តែងរបស់យើង និងបានផ្តល់នូវអនុសាសន៍ល្អទៅកាន់ធនាគារអភិវឌ្ឍន៍អាស៊ី ដើម្បី លើកកំពស់ស្ថានភាពនៃសហគមន៍រងផលប៉ះពាល់។ ពួកយើងស្នើសុំយ៉ាងមុតមាំឲ្យរបាយការណ៍នេះចេញ ផ្សាយ ដើម្បីជាផលប្រយោជន៍របស់ពួកយើង”។

លោក ដេវិត ប៊្រែត (David Pred) ដែលសមាជិកគណ:គ្រប់គ្រងនៃអង្គការ Associate of Inclusive Development International បានមានប្រសាសន៍ថា “វាពិតជាការប្រមាថដ៏ធ្ងន់ធ្ងរមួយ ដែលធនាគារអភិវឌ្ឍន៍អាស៊ីបានធ្វើទៅកាន់ប្រជាពលរដ្ឋ ដែលកំពុងប្រឈមនឹងភាពក្រីក្រដោយសារតែគម្រោង នេះ ហើយពួកគេមិនត្រូវបានអនុញ្ញាតឲ្យដឹងពីអ្វីដែលអ្នកជំនាញការផ្នែកតាំងទីលំនៅថ្មី បានធ្វើសេចក្តីសន្និដ្ឋាន លើស្ថានភាពរបស់ពួកគេផ្ទាល់។ ប្រហែលជារបាយការណ៍របស់បណ្ឌិត ម៉ៃខល ស៊ឺនារ (Michael Cernea) ផ្ទុយទៅនឹងស្ថានភាពនៃការតាំងលំនៅថ្មី ដែលធនាគារអភិវឌ្ឍន៍អាស៊ីចង់ឲ្យលោកបណ្ឌិតគូស បង្ហាញ”។

កង្វះតម្លាភាព និងភាពផ្សព្វផ្សាយជាសាធារណៈឲ្យទាន់ពេលចំពោះរបាយការណ៍សំខាន់ៗ បានក្លាយ បញ្ហាធំតាំងពីដំបូងនៃគម្រោងផ្លូវស្តាររថភ្លើង ហើយករណីនេះ មិនមែនជាការកម្រិតនូវរបាយការណ៍របស់ បណ្ឌិត ម៉ៃខល ស៊ឺនារ (Michael Cernea) ទេ។ រាជរដ្ឋាភិបាលកម្ពុជា ធនាគារអភិវឌ្ឍន៍អាស៊ី និង ជំនួយ រដ្ឋាភិបាលអូស្រ្តលី គឺកំពុងស្ថិតនៅក្នុងដំណើរការរៀបចំ គម្រោងផែនការតាំងទីលំនៅថ្មី ដែលរាប់បញ្ចូល ប្រជាពលរដ្ឋរងផលប៉ះពាល់បន្ថែម ១១១គ្រួសារ នៅក្នុងរាជធានីភ្នំពេញ។ ដោយសារតែ គម្រោងផែនការតាំង ទីលំនៅចាស់ នឹងមិនចេញផ្សាយជាសាធារណៈរហូតទាល់តែបញ្ចប់ដំណើរការ និង ការអនុញ្ញាត/បដិសេធ អ្នករងផលប៉ះពាល់ នូវឱកាសក្នុងការទទួលបានព័ត៌មាន និងប្រឹក្សាយោបល់លម្អិតអំពីគម្រោង។

លោកស្រី នូរ៉ា លីនស្រ្តម (Nora Strom) ដែលជាប្រធានកម្មវិធីអភិវឌ្ឍន៍នៃសមាគមធាងត្នោត បាន មានប្រសាសន៍ថា “ធនាគារអភិវឌ្ឍន៍អាស៊ីព្យាយាមលើកឡើងថា ពួកគេកំពុងទទួលស្គាល់ពីតម្លាភាព និងគណ នេយ្យភាព គឺជាចំណុចសំខាន់ក្នុងការអភិវឌ្ឍន៍ឲ្យមានប្រសិទ្ធិភាព និងដើម្បីសម្រេចឲ្យបាននូវទស្សនៈវិស័យ របស់ខ្លួន ស្តីពីការកាត់បន្ថយភាពក្រីក្រនៅតំបន់អាស៊ីប៉ាស៊ីហ្វិក។ គម្រោងនេះ គឺឆ្លុះបញ្ចាំងលើករណីគ្រប់យ៉ាង ប៉ុន្តែលើកលែងតែចំណុចដែលលើកឡើងខាងលើ។ ប្រជាពលរដ្ឋរងផលប៉ះពាល់ និង អង្គការសង្គមស៊ីវិល សង្ឃឹមយ៉ាងមុតមាំទៅលើរបាយការណ៍របស់បណ្ឌិត ម៉ៃខល ស៊ឺនារ (Michael Cernea) ប៉ុន្តែឥឡូវ យើងពុំទាន់មានឱកាសបានឃើញវាទេ”។

សម្រាប់ទំនាក់ទំនងព័ត៌មាន ៖

រាជធានីភ្នំពេញ ៖ លោក អៀង វុទ្ធី តំណាងអង្គការសមធម៌កម្ពុជា (+855) 12791700 Vuthy@equitablecambodia.org

រាជធានីភ្នំពេញ ៖ លោកស្រី នូរ៉ា លីនស្រ្តម (Nora Linstrom) ប្រធានកម្មវិធីអភិវឌ្ឍន៍នៃសមាគមធាងត្នោត (+855) 15552805 Nora@teangtnaut.org

ទីក្រុងម៉ែលប៊ន ៖ លោក ដេវិត ​ប៊្រែត (David Pred) សមាជិកគណ:គ្រប់គ្រងនៃអង្គការ Associate of Inclusive Development International +61 418146603, David@inclusivedevelopment.net

ព័ត៌មានបន្ថែម របាយការណ៍សារព័ត៌មាន និង ព័ត៌មានផ្សេងៗទាក់ទងនឹងគម្រោង ៖

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Media Statement: Railway Resettlement Debacle Cover Up: ADB Conceals Critical Expert Report

Railway Resettlement Debacle Cover Up:

ADB Conceals Critical Expert Report

Media Statement

 

(Phnom Penh, March 18, 2013) Equitable Cambodia (EC), Sahmakum Teang Tnaut (STT) and Inclusive Development International (IDI) regret the Asian Development Bank’s refusal to disclose a critical independent expert report on the impacts of involuntary resettlement caused by the Railway Rehabilitation Project in Cambodia.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has denied disclosure of an independent monitoring report by the world-renowned resettlement expert Dr. Michael Cernea about the controversial project to rehabilitate Cambodia’s railway. The project affects at least 4164 families who live alongside Cambodia’s dilapidated railway tracks and requires the physical relocation of at least 1200 families. 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.

Dr. Cernea was commissioned by ADB in mid-2012 to examine the situation and prepare the report, Monitoring of Population Resettlement in Cambodia’s Railway Rehabilitation Project: Current Status, Strengths, Weaknesses, and Recommendation, in response to the ongoing resettlement problems plaguing the Railway Project.  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.

The ADB rejected an initial request for disclosure of the report.  After an appeal was launched to the Public Disclosure Advisory Committee, ADB agreed to disclose the report’s recommendations but refused to disclose the full report.  The Committee stated that “the harm that would result from the disclosure of the entire Report would be substantial, immediate, and likely irreparable, and outweighs the benefits of disclosure.”  According to the ADB’s Public Communications Policy, the decision by PDAC is final and cannot be appealed further.

“Harmful to whom? I really wonder what they are hiding that could be so harmful,” said Eang Vuthy, Representative of Equitable Cambodia. “It seems that ADB is putting its own interests ahead of the public interest and the interests of people that have been harmed by the Railway Project.”

“Forthcoming STT research on the resettlement impacts of the Railway Rehabilitation Project, conducted following Cernea’s Impoverishment Risks and Reconstruction model, unequivocally shows that people affected by the project have been harmed”, said Ee Sarom, Programmes Coordinator at STT. “By not disclosing Dr. Cernea’s report, the ADB is trying its best to cover up that fact.”

Households affected by the Railway Project also expressed their deep disappointment with the ADB’s lack of disclosure.

“I believe that Dr. Cernea’s report will effectively benefit the people so ADB will not release it because they are worried about losing their interest,” said Sim Pov, community representative from Toul Sangke A in Phnom Penh. “I want the ADB to release the report and I want them to translate it into Khmer so that we can compare the report with ADB’s policy – that people should not be worse off as a result of the Railways Project. I want to see the ADB comply with the recommendations made by Dr. Cernea.”

“I am really sorry that the report prepared by Michael Cernea is not being disclosed,” said Mr. Prom Sarith, a community representative at Trapeang Anchhan in Phnom Penh. “Our lives at the new resettlement site are in the harsh condition, where we are lacking basic infrastructure, adequate housing, jobs, and school for our children.  This has made us become severe debtors and face losing our plot of land.  We understand that Michael Cernea’s report reflects our real situation at the ground and provides good recommendations to ADB to improve the situation of the affected communities.  We would strongly request this report be disclosed. It is for our benefit.”

“It is the ultimate insult by ADB to the families whom they have upended and impoverished with this project that they aren’t even entitled to know what a global resettlement expert thinks about their situation,” said David Pred, Managing Associate of Inclusive Development International.  “Perhaps that is because Dr. Cernea’s take is totally inconsistent with the whitewashed description of the resettlement situation that ADB’s spin doctors have portrayed.”

Lack of transparency and timely public disclosure of key documents has marred the Railway Project from the start, and is by no means limited to Dr. Cernea’s report. Reportedly, the Cambodian government, the ADB, and AusAID are currently in the process of preparing an Addendum to the Resettlement Plan, which will see the resettlement of an additional 111 households in Phnom Penh. As with previous Resettlement Plans, it will not be publicly disclosed until finalised and approved, denying resettlers an opportunity to be informed and meaningfully consulted about plans that will profoundly affect their lives.

“The ADB claims it recognises transparency and accountability as essential to development effectiveness and to achieve its vision of an Asia-Pacific free of poverty,” said Nora Lindström, Programme Development Manager at STT.   “This project exemplifies everything but that. Affected households and civil society groups supporting them had high hopes for Dr. Cernea’s report, and now we won’t even get to see it.” 

 – END

Media contacts:

In Phnom Penh:  Eang Vuthy, Representative, EC: (+855) 12791700, vuthy@equitablecambodia.org

In Phnom Penh:  Nora Lindström, Programme Development Manager, STT:  (+855) 15 552 805, nora@teangtnaut.org

In Melbourne:  David Pred, Managing Associate, IDI: +61 418146603, david@inclusivedevelopment.net

Extensive information, media reports and other news items about the Project are available at:

http://www.inclusivedevelopment.net/railway

http://www.teangtnaut.org/

https://cambodiatrainspotter.wordpress.com

VOA: NGOs Will Continue Advocacy Along Railway: ADB

Manilene Ek, Voice of America, Sep. 21 2011

A senior Asian Development Bank official said Wednesday that NGOs will continue working with villagers being relocated by a massive railway project, following the leak of a government letter seeking to shut them down.

In a June 17 letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen obtained by VOA Khmer, Finance Minister Keat Chhon suggested the government “nullify the eligibility” of NGOs advocating for the rights of villagers who could lose their land in the project.

“The main goal of these NGOs is to cancel the construction of the railway,” the letter said. Keat Chhon could not be reached for comment Wednesday, and a Finance Ministry official said he had “no idea” about the letter, which has Keat Chhon’s signature.

The Asian Development bank is supporting a $146-million project that would rehabilitate Cambodia’s railways to help connect Asean countries to Kunming, China. Thousands of people will have to be relocated as a result.

In a phone interview, ADB Country Director Putu Kamayana said NGOs “involved with the railway project have provided useful information that has helped address the needs of people affected by the project.”

“ADB hopes the NGOs will be allowed to continue their work on the railway project,” he said.

Keat Chhon said in his letter that an ADB consultant had warned government officials to “be careful with NGOs and requested the government take immediate action.”

Kamayana told Deutche Presse-Agentur the ADB had found “no evidence to substantiate alleged misconduct by any ADB consultants.”

In the weeks following the letter, one NGO working closely with residents along the railway, Sahmakum Teang Tnaut, was suspended by the Ministry of Interior and another, Bridges Across Borders, received a reprimand from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Michelle Bennet, a US Embassy spokeswoman, did not comment directly on the letter, but said in an e-mail, “The US strongly believes that a strong, independent, and diverse civil society is indispensible to democracy and Cambodia’s continued development.”

A French Embassy spokeswoman declined to comment on the letter.

PP Post: STT blasts its suspension

Vincent MacIsaac, Phnom Penh Post, Sep. 20, 2011

Land-Rights NGO Sahmakum Teang Tnaut yesterday called on authorities to “promptly and unconditionally” allow it to return to its work monitoring the rehabilitation of the country’s railways, following a report it said fully vindicated its claim that its August 2 suspension by the Ministry of Interior was politically motivated.

The report by news agency Deutsche Presse-Agentur cited a June 17 letter from Minister of Economy and Finance Keat Chhon to Prime Minister Hun Sen in which an unidentified ADB consultant allegedly asked the government to take action against STT and NGO Bridges Across Borders Cambodia because the ADB was under pressure from them over its funding of the railway project.

A June 17 letter from the Ministry of Economy and Finance is referred to in the suspension letter sent to STT from the interior ministry, but the Post could not confirm its contents. STT, however, said yesterday, that the “letter was first shown to us, and parts of it read to us, during a meeting with the Ministry of Interior in July”. A spokesperson for STT said the letter was “also referred to in official meeting minutes from our meeting with the MoI”, but said its request for a copy of it had been denied. When asked to comment Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said STT’s suspension was “old news”. He also said it was not his responsibility to comment on any letter from a different ministry, but added that any NGO that wanted to work in Cambodia had to “act according to Cambodian law”.

STT said “other accusations made against us [by the interior ministry] concerning administrative details are not only incorrect, but were used by the government as pretexts to obfuscate the facts and to silence us”. It said the June letter also “reveals a deeply concerning action by a consultant of one of the most influential institutions in the region”, referring to the ADB.

ADB country director Putu Kamayana, however, said: “ADB does not have a copy of the alleged letter … and since we do not have a copy … was unable to verify the accuracy of a translation [it was given].” “Nonetheless, given the seriousness of the allegations, ADB conducted a thorough internal investigation and did not find any evidence to substantiate inappropriate conduct by an ADB consultant.

The NGOs were unable to provide any more information on the alleged statements by the consultants. We have met them numerous times to discuss these issues,” he said.

STT issues media statement, says it has been vindicated by recent revelations

Sahmakum Teang Tnaut has issued a media statement following media reports regarding a letter from the Minister of Economics and Finance to the Prime Minister to “nullify” the organisation. Click here for the full statement: STT public statement.
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Sahmakum Teang Tnaut
Media Statement
Sep. 19, 2011

Sahmakum Teang Tnaut (STT) is a local urban NGO founded in 2005 and registered with the Ministry of Interior (MoI) in 2006. STT’s vision is a society in which urban inhabitants enjoy adequate housing within a sustainably developing city.

Following media reports regarding a letter from the Minister of Economics and Finance to the Prime Minister calling for the “nullification” of STT, we can confirm that we are aware of its existence. The letter was first shown to us, and parts of it read to us, during a meeting with the Ministry of Interior in July. It is also referred to in our suspension notice dated Aug. 2. Our request for a copy of the letter has however been denied.

Since our initial meeting with the Ministry of Interior, following the release of our report on the railways rehabilitation, it has been clear that the actions against us have been politically motivated and are directly related to our work monitoring the resettlement impacts of the ADB and AusAID-financed project. The other accusations made against us concerning administrative details are not only incorrect, but were used by the government as pretexts to obfuscate the facts and to silence us.

The letter from the Minister of Economics and Finance to the Prime Minister not only vindicates our position but also reveals a deeply concerning action by a consultant of one of the most influential institutions in the region, the Asian Development Bank.

STT hopes that this full vindication of our work will cause the authorities to promptly and unconditionally void the suspension, so that we can return to the real and urgent work of monitoring the railways rehabilitation, as well as continue our other projects working with the urban poor.

Cambodian NGOs under the gun

Sebastian Strangio, Sep. 19, 2011, Asia Times Online

PHNOM PENH -These are tough times for Cambodia’s embattled non-governmental organizations (NGOs). As the government gears up to pass controversial legislation regulating the country’s estimated 2,000 civil society groups, it has drawn strong criticism for a coordinated crackdown on land rights groups working on a foreign donor-funded railway renovation project.

On August 4, the Cambodian Ministry of Interior suspended the local organization Sahmakum Teang Tnaut (STT), one of several involved with monitoring the resettlement of residents displaced by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and AusAID-funded rail project. At first authorities claimed the suspension was due to inconsistencies in the group’s paperwork, but soon tipped their hand.

“STT operated and incited people to oppose national development by the government in order to make the development partners suspend or stop the project,” the ministry said in an August 14 statement.

The $141 million project will see the renovation of Cambodia’s decrepit rail system and is set to impact around 4,000 poor families living along the tracks. But resettlement options for those affected have come under fire from STT and other land rights groups since May 2010, when two young children drowned at a resettlement site in Battambang province. STT has also accused the government of the “systematic downgrading” of land values along rail lines in a bid to short-change residents on compensation.

In recent months, groups working on rail resettlement issues have been attacked by the highest reaches of the government. In a letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen dated June 17, Minister of Economy and Finance Keat Chhon requested that the premier approve punitive action against STT and Bridges Across Borders Cambodia (BABC), another group that has been active on the railway project.

Keat Chhon cited an unnamed ADB consultant as saying the bank had come under “political pressure” from the two organizations, and asked the government to “take immediate action” to stem their activities. The minister also issued the following instructions for Hun Sen’s approval: “Do not allow foreign NGOs to do advocacy work. Local NGOs who do advocacy work must not have foreigners involved or interfere.”

He also requested “action according to the laws to nullify the eligibility of these NGOs,” and referred specifically to a passage of the new NGO law. “I would like to request the Council of Ministers to review and implement the draft law on Association and Non-Governmental Organizations in a speedy manner,” Keat Chhon wrote.

(ADB country director Putu Kamayana told the German press agency Deutsche Presse Agentur the bank has conducted “a thorough investigation” which found “no evidence” of misconduct by any ADB consultants).

In late July, TV station TVK ran an interview with three government officials about the railway project in which they dismissed NGO criticisms of the project’s resettlement and compensation policies as “baseless”. According to a transcript of the interview, one official went on to slam various unnamed groups that “incite, provoke and make the affected families to be confused”.

He identified the culprits as “a small group of NGOs” that were “composed of foreigners” and called on their foreign staff to “no longer exploit the affected people to make your career”. The interview has been rebroadcast at least three times since its original airing.

Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, said STT’s suspension showed that the Cambodian government “doesn’t allow legal principles to get in the way of political priorities”. “When the order comes from the top to shutter a NGO or intimidate a community association, officials take action first and figure out the justification for what they did afterwards,” he said by e-mail.

Since STT’s suspension, the government has warned staff from the NGO Forum, an umbrella civil society organization, over letters it sent to ADB and AusAID officials alerting them about the situation at resettlement sites. It has also summoned staff from BABC to warn them about making “false” claims about the deaths of the two children last year, local media reported.

Stifled voices
The repressive atmosphere is spreading. On September 7, Cambodian authorities and police armed with AK-47s disrupted a human-rights training event organized by two local NGOs in Kampong Thom province.

According to a statement issued shortly afterwards by the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR), which co-organized the workshop, police photographed those taking part in the event, including local activists and community members protesting against land grabs.

Participants were told they did not have the necessary “permission” to hold the workshop. Quoted in the Cambodia Daily, Kampong Thom provincial police chief Phan Sopheng accused the two organizations of “inciting” local people, and warned that both could be suspended if they pushed ahead with future events.

Since the United Nations transitional mission of the early 1990s seeded Cambodia with a vibrant civil society sector, NGOs here have had an ambivalent relationship with the government.

For Hun Sen, tolerating a vocal civil society has been the price for keeping the Western aid dollars flowing; their criticisms of his government have been neutralized by his frequent references to the ravages of the Pol Pot regime, which stands accused of killing as many as two million people, and vague promises of future reforms.

This had made Cambodia a relative safe haven for civil society activists – by Asian standards, at least – but has also made Hun Sen’s government one of the most firmly entrenched, its tight grip on power legitimized internationally by its apparent tolerance for open criticism.

But with the new NGO law looming on the horizon – coupled with the massive increase in no-strings-attached aid and investment from China and the generally supine posture of UN agencies and most other donors – the balance could be tipping decisively in the government’s favor.

Officials have claimed the law, currently in draft form, is necessary to regulate the country’s sometimes unwieldy NGO sector. But the legislation has been widely criticized for granting the government the power to dissolve organizations on vague pretexts, and plague small groups with onerous registration procedures.

HRW’s Robertson said recent incidents only cast further doubt on the true purposes of the law. “The problem with the government’s claims of benign regulatory intent is that this totally contradicts their historical record of going after troublesome NGOs and community associations with the equivalent of hooks and hammers – including straightforward intimidation, violent repression of demonstrations, and now regulatory restrictions,” he said.

“There is basically no chance that a law on associations and NGOs will be used in the sort of benevolent, hands-off manner that the government is desperately trying to persuade the international community to believe,” Robertson added.

Indeed, the government’s moves could to some degree be an outgrowth of the souring of relations between Cambodia and some of its international donors. During a high-level donor meeting in April, USAID country head Flynn Fuller warned of a funding freeze if the NGO law was passed, describing it as “excessively restrictive”.

In August, the World Bank announced it had frozen funding to Cambodia over a rash of land seizures at Boeung Kak lake in central Phnom Penh, a high-profile eviction case that was brought to the Bank’s attention by several land rights groups, including STT and BABC. Shortly afterwards, Cambodia indefinitely postponed its next meeting with donors set for November.

CCHR president Ou Virak said that the active role played by the land rights NGOs in getting the World Bank to take action on the Boeung Kak issue may very well have pushed the government into taking a stronger stance against criticism of the rail project. He said the government had responded to its critics “the only way they know how” – by attacking the messenger.

But the groups involved say that contrary to the government’s implications, they are not opposed to national development. Ee Sarom, STT’s programs coordinator, said his group was working for “a transparent and sustainable development process that benefits all sectors of society and does not leave citizens worse off.”

“This type of work is important in ensuring development projects are equitable, sustainable, and beneficial to all Cambodians,” he said.

Sebastian Strangio is a journalist based in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. He can be reached at sebastian.strangio@gmail.com

DPA: Asian Development Bank denies requesting action against NGOs

Sep. 19, 2011, Deutsche Presse-Agentur

Phnom Penh – The Asian Development Bank on Monday dismissed accusations that one of its consultants asked Phnom Penh to act against groups monitoring one of its infrastructure development projects.

An internal investigation found ‘no evidence’ of any request for action against two rights groups that advocate for people affected by a 142-million-dollar railway rehabilitation project, ADB country head Putu Kamayana said.
His comments contradict a June 17 letter from Minister of Finance Keat Chhon to Prime Minister Hun Sen, a copy of which the German Press Agency dpa has seen.

Keat Chhon wrote that an unidentified ADB consultant had asked the government to act against the groups STT and Bridges Across Borders Cambodia (BABC).

In his letter, the minister asked Hun Sen to ‘nullify (their) eligibility.’The ADB consultant has drawn the attention of the government officials to be careful with these NGOs, and requested the government take immediate action on this group of foreign NGOs because (the) ADB is also under political pressure caused by these NGOs,’ he wrote.

Within weeks the government suspended STT for alleged paperwork violations, and warned BABC for ‘discrediting the government’ and inciting people against the government, a criminal offence. Two other groups monitoring railway resettlement were similarly cautioned.

Keat Chhon also wrote that ‘local and international consultants’ from the ADB had said the main goal of the non-governmental organizations was to cancel the railway’s construction.

Cambodia is rehabilitating its railway, which fell into neglect after years of conflict. When completed, the new railway will close the gap in the regional rail network and link Singapore to the city of Kunming in China.

The ADB’s Kamayana said the bank was aware of the allegations and had carried out a ‘thorough internal investigation.’
‘No evidence was found to substantiate alleged misconduct by any ADB consultants,’ Kamayana said by email.

However, the ADB earlier declined to provide a copy of its investigation report, saying dpa could apply for it through the bank’s formal information channels. A formal request on September 13 has so far not been answered. Kamayana said the ADB hoped the NGOs would be allowed to continue their monitoring work, which was ‘integral’ to the project’s success.

In his letter, Keat Chhon also recommended banning any advocacy work by foreign NGOs and foreigners in local NGOs.
He also said the government should rapidly pass and implement the controversial draft NGO Law. The bill has riled some donors and hundreds of civil society groups who say it will impose burdensome restrictions on NGOs, and increase the power of the government over them.

Keat Chhon’s letter carried an annotation from Hun Sen on June 19 approving its contents. Keat Chhon and staff at the finance ministry could not be reached for comment. Officials at other ministries declined to comment.

The ADB has provided 84 million dollars for the railway rehabilitation project, while the Australian government’s development arm AusAID has provided 21.5 million dollars.

STT and BABC have worked for nearly two years with villagers facing resettlement under the rehabilitation.

ADB rules say people who are resettled must not end up worse off. In a letter to the ADB last year the groups targeted by the government criticized conditions at a resettlement site where two children drowned. David Pred, BABC’s executive director, said by email that the ‘dire circumstances’ of many resettled families showed the bank’s consultants had failed in their duties. Referring to the June 17 letter, he said he was ‘deeply disappointed’ that ADB consultants appeared involved in actions against the NGOs.

The authorities have crossed swords with STT and BABC before, notably over the groups’ advocacy on behalf of villagers at the controversial Boeung Kak lake project in central Phnom Penh, which is being developed by a prominent ruling party senator. In March, the World Bank suspended lending to Cambodia after a slew of evictions at the lake saw thousands of residents displaced with what rights groups said was inadequate compensation.