Gov’t Ignores Ethnic Minorities, Study Says

Indigenous ethnic minorities in Cambodia’s northeastern prov­inces are facing un­precedented changes as the country pushes toward development, according to a report released Tuesday.

And although the Constitution guarantees that ethnic minority populations have equal status with all Cambodian citizens, the government “does not appear to have an active policy toward ethnic minorities,” the report said.

“Highland people are a generally poor and undeserved population,” said Myles Elledge, team leader of the study, which focused on ethnic minorities living in Kratie, Mondulkiri, Rata­nakkiri and Stung Treng prov­inces.

At a two-day workshop that ends today, those involved in the study and groups interested in ethnic minorities discussed the Cambodia report on the “Health and Education Needs of Ethnic Minorities in the Greater Me­kong Sub-Region.”

The study was conducted by the Research Triangle Institute in the US state of North Carolina and funded by the Asian Develop­ment Bank. The Inter-Ministerial Com­mittee for Highland People’s De­vel­opment and the ministries of Rural Development, Edu­ca­tion and Health also par­ticipated in putting together the report.

The ethnic population in the four northeastern provinces totals about 112,320, the report said. In Mondulkiri and Ratanakkiri prov­inces, hill tribes make up the majority of the population, while indigenous people make up less than 10 percent of residents in Kratie and Stung Treng prov­inces.

The report recommended the government form a comprehensive national ethnic minority policy and establish a plan to develop the disadvantaged areas in the na­tion’s northeast highland re­gion.

The study also said authorities should consider the culture, traditional beliefs and other factors specific to the hill tribes when making decisions on health and education needs.

Minister of Rural Development Chhim Seak Leng said the government is trying to help the indigenous population, and noted the formation of the Department of the Development of Ethnic Minorities inside his ministry.

Historically, the government has tried to exploit and assimilate the indigenous population and their “plight has yet to be seriously addressed,” according to the study.


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