Indigenous groups call for a halt to forced relocations

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Members of an indigenous group in traditional costume dance in a ceremony previous years. Photo by OHCHR

Over100 indigenous groups from eight of the Kingdom’s provinces asked the government on Thursday to grant them land concessions instead of forcing their relocation.

Celebrating the 24th International Day of Indigenous People, the groups gathered under the banner of the Indigenous People’s Migration and Movement.

A joint statement issued by the coalition said: “We are indigenous people and would like to declare that we never oppose the development of the royal government. On the contrary, we want and encourage development for indigenous people.

“The development we want should be consistent with our will and be in accordance with policies which inform and have prior consultation with us, and are open to agreements with respect to the United Nations’ statements on indigenous people’s rights that the Cambodian government voted to support on September 13, 2007.”

The statement went on to list some worrying trends and challenges indigenous people in the Kingdom noticed.

Both Lan Feng Rui Reng and Mega First were two companies mentioned in the report as having gotten land concessions that negatively impacted indigenous groups. They also called for an end to intimidation and any prevention of cultural ceremonies.

Yun Lorang, secretary-coordinator for the Cambodia Indigenous Peoples Alliance, said the reason for the committee to address the matter under the banner of the Indigenous People’s Migration and Movement was because they had become labourers outside the country, and many elderly who remained at home were convicted of trespassing.

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Indigenous groups come together to celebrate International Day of Indigenous People in previous years. Photo by OHCHR

He said that a land concession had caused many elderly to be relocated in his province, while forests they had relied on had been felled.

“Now we see clearly that working-aged men and women are migrating as workers, while the elderly are home-sitters. [They] are migrating because of land grabs and clearing of the forests,” he claimed.

Yim Chong, the Ministry of Rural Development’s director of the ethnic minority department, could not be reached for comment.

Regarding this issue, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Cambodia is working to support the community of indigenous people and assisting them through the process of obtaining land title deeds.

OHCHR has encouraged the government to provide opportunities for indigenous people to demonstrate their cultures and traditions.

Reports from the Cambodia Indigenous People Alliance said the world has more than 370 million indigenous people living in over 90 countries.

Cambodia has 24 groups of indigenous people totalling 276,878.