Cambodia will celebrate the seventh annual World Indigenous People’s Day on August 9th, an event that will bring together Cambodia’s diverse-and often ignored-indigenous groups.
The event, which will be held simultaneously in Stung Treng and Preah Sihanouk provinces, will function as a showcase for Cambodian indigenous people’s artwork, clothing, traditions, and materials, alongside performances by each participating group.
Presiding over the Stung Treng event will be Chea Sophara, Minister of Rural Development. Representatives from civil service organizations and indigenous people’s groups will attend both the Sihanoukville and Stung Treng events.
“This day allows indigenous people to meet and exchange experiences and their views with each other, and also to strengthen their solidarity with one another,” said Dam Chanthy, the director of the Banlung Highland Association and an ethnic Jarai. Ms Chanthy will speak about indigenous people’s issues at the event, as she did last year.
Cambodia’s ethnic minorities are being increasingly pushed off their ancestral lands by agri-industry projects, receiving little to no remuneration or benefit from what are often profitable projects for private developers.
According to Chhith Sam Ath of the NGO Forum, which is assisting in the organization and implementation of the event, “The day is to remind indigenous people to protect their rights-it’s a space, an opportunity for indigenous peoples to raise the issues they face about current developments.”
Cambodia’s Ministry of Rural Development has calculated that indigenous groups make up 1.4 percent of Cambodia’s total 14 million population, the majority residing in Ratanakkiri and Mondolkiri provinces.
Last year’s World Indigenous People’s Day, the 16th annual such celebration, was held near Siem Reap City, and featured 1,000 attendees and 300 villagers from 15 provinces, representing their respective ethnic groups.
Pvay Ro of the Indigenous People’s Community Support Organization said next week’s event helped minorities better understand their rights.
“I think that they [indigenous peoples] have fresh confidence after the event…so that people know about their needs and rights.”
Discussions at last year’s event also emphasized the need for greater transparency and consultation with ethnic minority groups over development projects in their area.