Private Land Sales Harming Indigenous Culture

Individual ownership and sale of communal land is fracturing the culture of some indigenous peo­ples, representatives of ethnic mi­nority communities said in a statement Monday.

The statement summarized the results of the first-ever national con­ference of indigenous minorities, held over three days that ended on Saturday in Kompong Speu’s Oral district.

Ethnic minority villagers who at­tended the conference cited un­of­ficial individual land sales as a key threat to indigenous communities, along with land and mining con­cessions that encroach on an­cestral hill tribe land.

“The level of sales of indigenous land and land alienation through other means is devastating and leading to complete loss of land, according to the statement, released after indigenous representatives met with donors and Ministry of Land Ma­nage­ment officials on Monday.

“It is a problem that we must solve immediately if we are to protect our way of life and protect our indigenous cultures,” they said in the statement.

“It is the experience of many of us that private title leads to land loss from the community and private title is against the basics of our indigenous culture,” representatives said. Indigenous vil­­lage land is traditionally managed com­munally, with individuals awarded parcels of land to live on but with no one person having authority to sell the land they oc­cupy. Traditional village boundaries, determined by village el­ders, often don’t conform with of­ficial village and commune de­marc­ations, villagers said.

“New governance structures are sometimes undermining the traditional indigenous management systems of communities and are weakening the social structure of communities,” the state­ment said, emphasizing that vil­lagers do not want private land titles.

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