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Minorities Warn Against Land Concessions

A group of ethnic minorities from Cambodia's far-flung provinces gathered in Phnom Penh Friday, urging the government to reconsider its concession policies on land where they make a living on natural resources.

Cambodia's once-remote northeast has opened up to mining and other concessions in recent years, leading to a large number of displaced minorities and conflict over land.

"Don't take the land of ethnic minorities for concession," said Tep Toem, a Kuoy ethnic minority from Preah Vihear province. "Before giving land concessions to companies, the government should talk with the people in advance, whether the land concession will affect people's livelihoods or not."

Members of Cambodia's minorities spoke following a meeting in Phnom Penh sponsored by the NGO Forum. Cambodia has an estimated 190,000 minorities, comprising 17 indigenous groups.

Members of the different groups are responsible for the management of around 4 million hectares, NGO Forum said in a statement.

UN special rights envoy Yash Ghai warned on a visit last year that land disputes in rural provinces could lead to political instability.

Officials for the Ministry of Land Management could not be reached for comment Friday.