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Call to protect rights of indigenous peoples

Pech Sotheary / Khmer Times Share:
Cambodia has 24 indigenous groups in more than 500 communities. KT/Mai Vireak

The chairman of the National Assembly’s Commission on Legislation and Justice has called for a united effort to safeguard the rights and interests of indigenous peoples.

Pen Panha said Cambodia paid attention to indigenous peoples in areas such as tradition, identity, land ownership, and rights to participate in politics, economic, social and cultural activities.

In a workshop titled “The Dissemination of Traditional Rules, Policies National and International Laws relating to the Indigenous Peoples” at the National Assembly yesterday he said indigenous people were protected by national and international laws and policies.

However, he admitted that they experienced challenges from economic and social changes in the areas where they lived.

Their land, culture, language and traditions were also under pressure from development and globalisation, Mr Panha said.

He urged ministries, institutions and local authorities to “continue to strengthen all data, share information and collaborate to address challenges and provide better services to indigenous peoples”.

Mr Panha also continued to push for identification and registration of community land, recognition of indigenous communities, and provision of legal ownership of collective land to the community, as well as the protection of the rights and interests of indigenous peoples.

Mong Vichet, representing the Highlanders Association, said hydropower dams, economic land concessions, social land concessions, mining concessions and tourism had helped the nation and the national economy to develop, but also affected the lives, land, culture and traditions of indigenous people.

“We ask for help. Indigenous people do not reject development but we ask for win-wins in which the community, government and our whole country will profit,” he said. “We ask for mitigation of the impact.”

Kouy ethnic minority member Sien Kheourn, 59, of Preah Vihear province’s Chey Sen district, said tribal people feared the loss of their farmland and trees due to Chinese companies digging mines.

“We do not want a ban on any location where the government wants to carry out developments, but in places where there is collective land and farming land, we would like to ask for the registration of that land for protection by indigenous people,” he said.

Interior Ministry Secretary of State Pol Lim said the government had paid special attention to tribal communities and always helped to solve challenges facing indigenous people.

This included identification and recognition of indigenous communities, collective land registration, and resolving land disputes by implementing the government’s win-win policy.

According to documents provided at the workshop, Cambodia has 24 indigenous groups in 503 communities. About  45,000 indigenous families, or about 200,000 people, live in 15 provinces.

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