Port Kinh, a member of the Tompon tribe in Ratanakkiri province, says he is tired of being pushed around.
“Hill tribe people have been intimidated, and the land has been confiscated by powerful people. Some bought a small chunk of land but occupy a much larger piece,” he said.
“If we don’t have money [the authorities] don’t receive and resolve our complaints,” he added. “We go to the hospital, but because we have no money the doctors don’t pay much attention.”
Braing Thil, a Phnong tribesman from Mondolkiri province, said he’s tired of his people being called “monkeys” or “jungle men.”
“Sometimes we are accused of eating human flesh. It is completely untrue,” he said.
Ethnic minorities throughout Cambodia were invited to Phnom Penh Tuesday for a conference to help draft recommendations for the UN World Conference on Racism, scheduled to begin next month in South Africa.
About 10 percent of Cambodia’s population of 11.4 million belong to minority groups, said Pen Dareth, consultant to the Council of Ministers. Islamic Chams make up about 40 percent of that group; Vietnamese make up 21 percent and Chinese 9 percent. Pen Dareth called for a new government department to help minorities.
Khmer Krom participants said they often face discrimination because local authorities did not see them as authentic Cambodians.
“When they see our surnames like Thach and Seung, they do not provide us with identity cards,” Thach Khemarin said.
“When our relatives [from Vietnam] come to visit us in Cambodia, police usually take money from each of them, at least $25, sometimes $50 or $75,” said Tich Chhounh, a Khmer Krom from Svay Rieng province.
Hill tribe members said they were exploited because they are poor and viewed as ignorant.
“When the students have no money to pay for [answer forms] for the exams, they weren’t allowed to take exams,” said Loek Reub, a Pnong from Ratanakkiri.