Railway leaves area in limbo

In 2009, a railway project official arrived at 45-year-old Ry Preng’s home in Por Sen Chey district and spray-painted “1.042” in red on the side of his house. He wasn’t sure what it meant, but was told that at some point he would need to pack up and leave to make way for a freight facility alongside the national railroad.

“They just came to study, they did not tell us anything,” he said, referring to the 230 families living or owning land in Samrong Estate, a 100-hectare stretch of mostly agricultural plots on the capital’s outskirts. Now, close to five years on, little has changed.

Samrong Estate’s limbo status emerged last week in a large-scale report by the ADB’s internal watchdog, the Compliance Review Panel, which detailed the mass failings of the bank to ensure the just relocation of families resettled as part of the $143 million railway development. …

From the outset, according to the ADB watchdog’s report, the government claimed that Samrong was state land, something rebutted by rights groups and occupants, who said properties were privately owned or at least open to registration under Cambodian law. The complexities around the ownership led the ADB to request a legal opinion from the government, but none was forthcoming. Instead, in 2010 the ADB, according to the watchdog’s report, commissioned regional legal firm DFDL to complete an investigation.

After 18 months, in 2012, DFDL found in support of the government’s position that the land was state owned. By this time, however, rights groups had gathered more documentation to support their claim of household ownership. …

Daniel de Carteret