Ethnic Minorities in Mondolkiri Band Together in New Political Party

Indigenous people in Mondolkiri province have joined together to form a new political party to give a voice to the country’s minority groups, a party official said Wednesday.

Sroy Khet, an ethnic Bunong and interim deputy leader of the Cambodian Indigenous Democracy Party (CIDP), said that more than 20 indigenous people had decided to create the party, adding that most of the founders had previous experience in civil society.

“We have had the intention to create the party since 2005, but we did not have the ability to create it,” he said. “We will defend all Cambodians’ identities, beliefs, languages, customs and cultures.”

Mr. Khet said the nascent party already had the required minimum of 80 supporters and the proper documentation to register with the Interior Ministry, and that it planned to do so in November.

Sok Ratha, provincial coordinator for local rights group Adhoc, said he had met with the CIDP’s founders and discussed the reasons they wanted to form a new party.

“They think that Cambodian politicians do not understand what they want,” he said. “They think that only indigenous people understand their difficult living conditions and their customs.”

Mr. Ratha added that the 20 founders had stressed that they were independent from any other political groups in the country.

The CIDP would be the fifth political party to be registered this year, with radio station owner Mam Sonando, former NGO director Yeng Vireak, dissident Suon Serey Ratha and ousted CNRP official Lak Sopheap all heading new parties.

Yun Mane, executive director of the Cambodian Indigenous People Organization, said that if the CIDP’s leaders could find ways to finance the party, it could be an important influence.

“I think it will give more voice for their people in the future and it also can bring more attention to their own issues,” she said. “It’s about addressing the land issues…and other challenges like education and health.”

(Additional reporting by Anthony Jensen)

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