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the Failed Resettlement Program

The Highway 1 Project

The Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City Highway Project was to renovate a 105.5 km section of the HW1 between the Mekong River ferry crossing and the Cambodia-Vietnam border. On 15 December 1998, the ADB’s Board of Directors approved a 40 million USD loan from its concession arm, the Asian Development Fund, to finance the Project. The ADB’s 1997 feasibility study estimated that 5,920 Cambodians in 1,184 households would be affected. The ADB’s 1995 Policy on Involuntary Resettlement was to safeguard these families from becoming economically and socially worse-off after the resettlement.

Failed Resettlement Program

The reality was the opposite. When the resettlement started in 2000, most families received no compensation for lost land. They did receive compensation for affected structures, such as a house, but the amount was significantly deducted. Relocated villagers ended up living temporarily on somebody else’s land. They were sometimes told by the landowner to move out. This made it extremely difficult for them to restore their life and livelihood. Every time they relocated, they had to spend some money to reestablish. Some families had to borrow a high-interest loan from private lenders because they had no access to commercial loans. In short, many project-affected villagers were made landless, houseless, and jobless. These problems occurred because the ADB Management had mistakenly approved a sub-standard resettlement program submitted by the Cambodian government.

Cambodian NGOs documented the problems facing resettled families living along the HW1. They issued a report on 14 February 2002 and pointed out to the ADB that the Project had not complied with the bank’s 1995 resettlement policy. The NGOs’ report also suggested that the ADB should immediately conduct more comprehensive investigation over the entire project area. The ADB sent several missions to Cambodia to improve the implementation of the resettlement program but only in localized ways. The ADB did not respond to the Project’s failures in more systematic ways until much later.

The land some families had resettled to was flooded in the rainy season. (November 2002)

>>The Project’s overview:
ADB’s Reports and Recommendations of the President (RRP), dated November 1998.

>>NGOs’ documentation of the resettlement failure:
NGO Forum on Cambodia’s Letter to the Cambodian Government on Behalf of 99 Affected Families, dated 14 February 2002.

>>Resettlement problems documented in the ADB-funded research:
Chea Sarin. 2005. Country Report: Cambodia.

Chea Sarin. 2007. Capacity Building for Resettlement Risk Management: Cambodia Country Report.

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