Indigenous Women Launch Advocacy Campaign

A group of about 30 indigenous minorities from seven different provinces came together for a workshop at the Cambodia-Korea Cooperation Center (CKCC) on Wednesday to discuss problems facing women in their communities.

Over the past decade, indigenous communities have lost access to natural resources, been moved off farmland and seen income opportunities disappear because of rapid deforestation, the lease of economic land concessions and construction of hydroelectric dams.

Be Deng, 46, an ethnic Banong villager from Mondolkiri province’s Bosra commune, said she attended the workshop because she is currently involved in a land dispute with Socfin-KCD, a French-owned rubber company. She has seven children between the ages of seven and 23, but could afford to send only four to school.

“I do not have land to plant a rice field,” Ms. Deng said. “After losing land, I have become poorer.”

Nuon Monh, 63, an ethnic Kuoy villager from Preah Vihear province’s Brameru commune, said her family has also lost farmland because of alleged land grabbing by Chinese firms Rui Feng and Lan Feng, who were given commercial land concessions in the area.

“The companies showed us documents that say they can use the land,” Ms. Monh said. “They said they will not stop cultivating or digging until the commune, district and province stop them.”

In January, Ms. Monh and others in the community submitted petitions calling for their land back to eight institutions including the Interior Ministry, the Royal Palace and the National Authority for Land Dispute Resolution. Ms. Monh said the families have not received any responses.

On Wednesday was the first part of a three-day conference bringing indigenous communities together to talk about their shared problems and “strengthen the capacity of indigenous women for a better advocate for their rights and the recognition of their vital roles in their communities,” according to a press statement released in advance of the workshop.

The group will propose a series of recommendations tomorrow and submit them to relevant government institutions this week.

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