AusAID and the Asian Development Bank have been co-funding a project to rehabilitate the railway lines since 2009. The project has been described as a defacto privatisation project for the benefit of an Australian-linked consortium, which includes Toll Holdings and a local group with close links the Prime Minister, Hun Sen. Toll Holdings suspended its involvement in the project from April 2012.
A key problem with the project has been a botched relocation process of households that lie on the path of the railway lines. In many cases this process has led to the violent intimidation of residents and inadequate compensation, leaving people significantly worse off, including being driven into debt. This is in direct contravention of both Asian Development Bank and AusAID policies on resettlement.
Despite this issue being brought to AusAID’s attention over several years by local organisations, international groups (including AID/WATCH) and even the Australian Senate, the problems continue.
In the most recent media reports, relocated villagers who had submitted a complaint on behalf of 166 households to the Asian Development Bank complaints mechanism, as is their right, were assaulted by a mob, led by the local village chief. Two people were hospitalised. The representative of the households has been threatened and is currently in hiding.
AID/WATCH calls on AusAID to implement the recommendations of the ‘Derailed: AusAID and the Troubled Cambodian Railways Project’ report, including suspending the project until a credible human rights monitoring system has been established and communities are compensated for their losses.