Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Asian Development Bank Is Putting Meat into the Tiger’s Mouth As Railway Is Being Repaired

20 February 2008.

The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 548

“The Asian Development Bank [ADB] publicly announced in the morning of last Monday that it will contribute to rehabilitate a portion of the Khmer railway of around 652 kilometers from Banteay Meanchey to Phnom Penh with a grant of US$73 million, including a loan of US$43 million from the ADB. Some observers warned that with this huge amount of money, if there is no close and proper monitoring, this money is just a piece of meat that is thrown into the tigers’ mouth without serving the interests of the Khmer country and people.

“According to Mr. Sun Chanthol, the Minister of Public Works and Transport, in the US$73 million package, the loan of the ADB is US$43 million, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Counties [OPEC] contributes US$13 million, the Malaysian government shares US$2.8 million, and the Cambodian government contributes US$15.2 million.

“Mr. Kuroda Haruhiko, the president of the ADB, is proud of this project.

“Referring to Mr. Sun Chanthol, a part of the railway from Svay Sisophon in Banteay Meanchey to Phnom Penh had been repaired one time in 1929. Based on the present project, the rehabilitated railway will be able to load from 15 to 20 tons, and the trains can run with a speed of 50 kilometers per hour.

“The announcement of yesterday on the rehabilitation of the Khmer railway infrastructure is part of an agreement which was already approved by the ASEAN Transport Ministers’ Meeting last year. It is a project which will lead to have the railways of ASEAN nations connected with each other.

“According to Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol, who had joined the 13th ASEAN Transport Ministers’ Meeting in Singapore on 1-2 November 2007, with the grants of US$80 million from ADB and OPEC, Cambodia will begin the railway construction project of 48 kilometers, connecting Svay Sisophon with Poipet at the Siam-Khmer border, and from Siam [Thailand] the railway will continue to some other ASEAN countries, totaling around 5,000 kilometers, a project which was approved in 1995.

“Mr. Sun Chanthol continued that Cambodia will also connect 257 kilometers of railway with Yuon [Vietnam], which will cost around US$500 million. The big package of US$80 million that Cambodia will receive from the ADB will, according to Mr. Sun Chanthol, be used only for connecting 48 kilometers of local railway from Serei Saophoan to Poipet, including the repair of the very old railway, which is more than 40 years old.

“However, currently it is difficult to see any benefit from the railway supported by foreign loans. Quite to the contrary, the money flows to support family members’ lives of Mr. Sok An of the Council of Ministers.

“The Cambodian Royal Railway is managed by Sokhom Pheakakvoan Muny, known to be a nephew of Minister Sok An of the Council of Ministers; until now there is no report about income from railway services.

“There are two railway lines, one from Phnom Penh to Battambang, and another one from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville, but there are no more crowds of people like before, when also goods were actively transported, but unfortunately, the benefits from the present services do not improve the railway staff’s living conditions, nor were they transparently shown. It was only seen that the general director of the Royal Railways quietly bought one more villa and changed to new cars.

“This makes some staff and workers think that their daily work seems not to contribute to the improvement of the living conditions of the society and of themselves. It seems they are just working as slaves for Sokhom Pheakakvoan Muny.

“The Royal Railway staff and workers’ past pain appeared visibly in strong protests. But because Sokhom Pheakakvoan Muny is a relative to Mr. Sok An, the Royal Railway staff’s protest is meaningless, and nobody can help them.

“At this time the preparation to connect the railway with other countries in ASEAN seems like trying to carry water in a leaking jar, if the leader of the Cambodian Royal Railway does not change.

“It is to be noted that today in Cambodia, there are many powerful men in the government who take advantage to use state properties to serve their own interests. Some leaders of the Public Works Department use state machinery, like trucks, to serve their own pockets, and Sokhom Pheakakvoan Muny takes advantage of the state’s train for his own benefit.

“Many materials of the state, equipment that was bought by using the national budget, are used in a way that really destroys the nation, and this brings no benefit to the country.”

Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.2, #112, 19.2.2008

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