Residents complain of forced relocation, intimidation, inadequate compensation
The Phnom Penh- Ho Chi Minh City Road is the first project to be implemented under the ADB’s Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) Initiative, which is intended to improve cooperation for economic development amongst the GMS countries (Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Burma (Myanmar), Thailand, Vietnam, and Yunnan Province in the People’s Republic of China). The purpose of this project is to assist the Cambodian and Vietnamese Governments in improving the cross-border section of Highway 1 linking Phnom Penh in Cambodia to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, thereby increasing the potential for cross-border trade. The section being improved is 265 km long in Vietnam and 105 km in Cambodia.
Project construction involves road widening, which has had a number of adverse social and economic effects on communities situated on Highway 1, mainly associated with forced relocation. While the Bank’s Initial Environmental Examination indicated the potential for only minor impacts on the people living along the highway, the residents living on the Cambodian part of the road have been impacted or resettled without proper compensation. Case studies conducted by Cambodian civil society groups showed that the compensation allocated by the Government to project-affected families was substantially lower than the actual price for relocation and reconstruction of most dwellings. Communities interviewed said that the Government of Cambodia used intimidation tactics to coerce people into accepting an inadequate resettlement plan.
Lack of Communication and Information
A survey conducted by the Working Group on Development Banks of the NGO Forum on Cambodia found that 55% of 45 people interviewed did not have a clear understanding of the Cambodian Government’s policy regarding compensation. These people also did not understand what distance in meters they would have to move their dwellings from the road axis. Most interviewees also stated that government authorities (Provisional Resettlement Sub-Committee) came to measure their houses and then asked them to fingerprint a document without further explanation. The authorities later returned to ask house owners to sign agreements to move their houses and receive the government’s compensation.
Poor Resettlement Plan
The resettlement plan fails to provide for relocation in cases where the affected communities do not have a land title or land beyond the 30-m right-of-way on Highway 1. The NGO Forum’s survey found that 65 % of the people interviewed do not have land elsewhere to which they can relocate. The failure to assure resettlement for people without land titles constitutes a violation of the ADB Loan Agreement Schedule which states that “Project Affected People shall not be required to have formal legal title to the land used by them in order to be eligible for compensation” (Schedule 6.2)
Inappropriate Compensation and Intimidation Tactics
Case studies by the NGO Forum on Cambodia showed that the compensation allocated by the Government was substantially lower than the actual price for relocation and reconstruction of most dwellings. Even though the amount of compensation was insufficient, 60% of the people surveyed agreed to the government’s compensation believing they had no alternative. Twenty seven percent of the people surveyed did not find the Government’s compensation sufficient. Only 7% agreed knowingly to the low compensation.
The Government of Cambodia used intimidation tactics to coerce people into accepting an inadequate resettlement plan. These tactics included spray painting large numbers or question marks, clearly visible from the road, on the outside walls of most affected people’s houses who did not agree with the compensation offered.
As of March 2001, there were several problems with the implementation and monitoring of the resettlement and compensation plans. Affected stakeholders had not yet received compensation for wells and crops. The border of the right-ofway had not been marked clearly on the ground, making it difficult for affectees to know where to relocate their houses and how to assess their compensation needs.
NGO Forum on Cambodia (Resettlement Action Network)- Leakhana Kol
ADB- Shyam Bajpai, Country Director, Cambodia Resident Mission
ADB- Rajat Nag, Mekong Department, Director General,
ADB- John Cooney, Mekong Department,
Infrastructure Division, Director