Indigenous Group Applies For Party Status

The prospective Cambodia Indigenous People Democracy Party (CIPDP) submitted its initial application with the Interior Ministry on Monday, the first major step to gaining official recognition.

The ministry has 15 days within which to accept the application, after which the party must complete the registration process by submitting its platform, statutes, finances and proof of public support by way of a few hundred signatures. It already has a logo: the silhouette of a man riding an elephant.

“I delivered the application to list the party to the Interior Ministry on Monday morning, and the Interior Ministry signed and received the application,” said Sroy Khet, the party’s proposed vice president.

Mr. Khet said the Bunong, an indigenous ethnic minority from eastern Cambodia, made up the plurality of the would-be party’s 80 founding members. A Bunong himself, he said the rest were mostly Kuoy, Por and Prao, and that all 80 came from six provinces: Battambang, Kompong Thom, Kratie, Mondolkiri, Oddar Meanchey and Stung Treng.

“We do this based on the will of the indigenous people of Cambodia, who want to protect their customs, traditions and culture, and the natural resources,” he said. “They want people [in power] who know their identity and who pay attention to indigenous people.”

Mr. Khet estimated that about 500,000 Cambodians were members of indigenous minorities, out of roughly 15 million people living in the country.

Rights groups say those minorities have been especially ill-affected by the country’s agribusiness plantations, which have grabbed land from local communities and encroached on community forests across the country, often providing little or no compensation in return.

If approved, the CIPDP would be the fifth party to enter the political fray this year. The Beehive Social Democratic Party, the Grassroots Democratic Party, the Khmer Power Party and the Khmer Solidarity Party have all been registered in recent months.

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