Since 2009, the Australian Government, through (then) AusAID, and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) have been funding a project in Campbodia to rehabilitate and prvitaise the railway system. The project was pitched as an economic driver for Cambodia in which the poor will, in some articulated way, eventually share. But a program that uses aid money, money intended to help people overcome poverty, has made life considerably worse for many that stand in its way. In order for this project to proceed, over 4000 families living alongside, and often on- top of the railways underwent a forced relocation. Compensation to families was grossly inadequate and there were sever problems at resettlement sites, including inadequate basic infrastructure and services, and a lack of jobs. In May 2010, two children drowned in a pond as they went looking for water in their resettled home which lacked running water.
Our Off the Rails report documents what happened in detail and explores how the project concept note provided by AusAID show how much AusAID’s ideological underpinnings, to promote privitatisation and neo-liberal policies have influenced the project. We also think that the involvement of AusAID is due to the significant involvement of an Australian company, Toll Holdings, in running the railways.
In February 2014, The Asian Development Bank (ADB) admitted that the Cambodia Railways Project has seriously harmed the lives, livelihoods, incomes and community of people who lived on the Railway Line in Cambodia. The ADB’s internal watchdog released a scathing report of the project that confirms that thousands of displaced people are much worse off. In a statement released by the Australian Government, they support the outcomes of the report, including the compensation scheme which largely requires that the Cambodian Government pay the required compensation. AusAID has largely been absolved of responsibility for the outcomes of this project.