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.