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Thailand rail link held up by compensation claims

Chea Vannak / Khmer Times Share:
Prime Minister Hun Sen, left, and his Thai counterpart Prayut Chan-o-cha plan to inaugurate the Cambodia to Thailand train service. Reuters

Government officials are working to settle compensation claims for 50 families living alongside a kilometer of rail track in Poipet town, to allow a rail link between Cambodia and Thailand to open by the middle of the year.
Ly Borin, under-secretary of state at the Transport Ministry and director of Cambodia’s Railway Restoration Project, said officials are trying to speed up efforts to relocate the villagers so the Battambang to Poipet service can launch on schedule. The track links Poipet City to Thailand’s Sa Kaeo province.
Villagers living in the area have been asked to submit legal documents for compensation, Mr. Borin said, but refused to reveal how much the people will receive.
Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Thai counterpart Prayut Chan-o-cha plan to inaugurate the service by taking the train together when Cambodia hosts the Cambodia-Thailand Joint Cabinet Meeting in July or August.
But Mr. Borin said the compensation issue could mean work on the Cambodian side of the track is not finished in time.
“If the issue isn’t solved completely by July or August, the two prime ministers will not be able to get the train together as planned,” Mr. Borin said. “I am not sure if we’re going to be ready for them to shake hands on the train, because a lot of work remains to be done.”
Once the rail line from Battambang to Poipet is fully restored, government will start work on tracks from Battambang to Pursat province, Mr. Borin said, adding that limited budget meant the work had to be staggered.
The agreement to link railways between the two countries was made by Mr. Hun Sen and Mr. Prayut in late 2015 and aims to boost trade and travel. It is hoped it will increase bilateral trade to up to $15 billion by 2020.
An estimated $17 million was needed to restore poor track conditions in the northwest, Transport Minister Sun Chanthol said last May.
Economic analysts have said the railway between Cambodia and Thailand will improve trade, cut transport costs, and facilitate easier travel for people in both countries.

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